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House of Commons Hansard

Commons Chamber

11 July 2017
Volume 627

     House of Commons

    Tuesday 11 July 2017

    The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock

    Prayers

    [Mr Speaker in the Chair]

    BUSINESS BEFORE QUESTIONS

    City of London (Open Spaces) Bill

    Ordered,

    That the promoters of the City of London Corporation (Open Spaces) Bill, which originated in this House in Session 2015-16 on 22 January 2016, may have leave to proceed with the Bill in the current Session according to the provisions of Standing Order 188B (Revival of bills).—(The Chairman of Ways and Means.)

    Middle Level Bill

    Motion made,

    That the promoters of the Middle Level Bill, which originated in this House in the previous Session on 24 January 2017, may have leave to proceed with the Bill in the current Session according to the provisions of Standing Order 188B (Revival of bills).—(The Chairman of Ways and Means.)

  • Object.

    To be considered on Tuesday 18 July.

    New Southgate Cemetery Bill [Lords]

    Ordered,

    That the promoters of the New Southgate Cemetery Bill [Lords], which originated in the House of Lords in Session 2015-16 on 25 January 2016, may have leave to proceed with the Bill in the current Session according to the provisions of Standing Order 188B (Revival of bills).—(The Chairman of Ways and Means.)

    Sessional Returns

    Ordered,

    That there be laid before this House Returns for Session 2016–17 of information and statistics relating to:

    (1) Business of the House

    (2) Closure of Debate, Proposal of Question and Allocation of Time (including Programme Motions)

    (3) Sittings of the House

    (4) Private Bills and Private Business

    (5) Public Bills

    (6) Delegated Legislation and Legislative Reform Orders

    (7) European Legislation, etc

    (8) Grand Committees

    (9) Panel of Chairs

    (10) Select Committees.—(The Chairman of Ways and Means.)

  • Oral Answers to Questions

    FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE

    The Secretary of State was asked—

    Illegal Wildlife Trade

  • 1. What steps his Department is taking to help tackle the illegal trade in wildlife. [900338]

  • I wish to begin by congratulating Iraq’s security forces on liberating Mosul from the pitiless grasp of Daesh. The flag of Iraq flies once more in the country’s second city and I pay tribute to the pilots of the RAF who played a vital role in supporting this operation, delivering more airstrikes than anyone else apart from the United States. The House can take pride in what they have done.

    On the illegal wildlife trade, we can be pleased with the agreement that the Prime Minister helped to secure at the G20 summit in Hamburg. It is about cracking down not only on the trade in charismatic megafauna, but on those who engage in gunrunning, people trafficking and much other human misery, as well as illegal wildlife trafficking. We can be proud of what we are doing.

  • I applaud the efforts the Government are making in this area. I am also pleased that the UK will host the illegal wildlife trade conference in 2018. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm how much money the Department has committed to tackling the illegal wildlife trade and how effectively the money is being spent?

  • I can confirm that we are increasing our contribution to £26 million—another £13 million to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. I have myself seen what UK-financed projects are doing in Kenya to crack down on this vile trade.

  • I say to the Foreign Secretary that we simply have to give this subject a much higher priority than we do—not only our Government, but across the world. Every week or month we see programmes on our televisions—55 African elephants are poached every day. He has to make this a priority. It is not good enough for us to look at our television screens and feel sorry about it—we have to have a far greater commitment to do something about it.

  • I completely share the hon. Gentleman’s zeal and passion. The UK has in fact been in the lead on this for several years now, and we will continue to push the agenda, not just at the G20, as the Prime Minister did, but at the IWT summit that we will host in October 2018 in London.

  • Will my right hon. Friend talk a little about his strategy on this issue, because the link between the illegal wildlife trade, smuggling, people trafficking, and lawlessness and violence in many countries is extremely real? Addressing the illegal wildlife trade may seem esoteric, but it is not: it is about the stability of many nations that are firm partners of the United Kingdom.

  • My hon. Friend is right: this is far from esoteric. It not only touches the hearts of millions of people in our country—as the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) said—but helps to cause increased human misery. The same people are involved in trade in drugs, arms and people, worth up to £13 billion a year, and we are playing a major part in frustrating that trade.

  • There is increasing evidence that the UK’s legal ivory market has been used as cover for illegal trade. What discussions will the Foreign Secretary have with colleagues about an all-out ban on the ivory trade, as previously committed to?

  • As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have a commitment to an all-out ban on the sale of ivory in this country, and that is what we intend to pursue.

  • Exiting the EU

  • 2. What steps his Department is taking to help support and deliver an effective departure for the UK from the EU. [900339]

  • 14. What steps his Department is taking to help support and deliver an effective departure for the UK from the EU. [900351]

  • My Department continues to support EU exit negotiations, and the Government work to strengthen our relations with partners worldwide. As a champion of free trade, we will continue to seize the opportunities afforded by Brexit and guarantee our long-term global prosperity.

  • Businesses in my constituency are seeking to make the most of the opportunities that Brexit provides for them, but can my right hon. Friend assure me that he will work closely with the Department for International Trade and the Department for Exiting the European Union to ensure that businesses that are already trading with the single market are helped to build new export markets for their goods and services around the world, to secure their continued prosperity?

  • Absolutely. I congratulate my hon. Friend on what I believe is her first question—I think it is a very good one. She can reassure her constituents that not only will the excellent companies in her constituency be able to continue to enjoy free trade with the rest of the European Union—with the EU27—but they will, of course, have the additional opportunity afforded by the new free trade deals that we will be able to strike with countries around the world. I am pleased to say that they were queuing up to make that point to the Prime Minister at the G20 in Hamburg.

  • Today is the feast day of St Benedict, the patron saint of Europe, who famously warned about “murmuring in the community” against the abbess. Will my right hon. Friend please proclaim that we do not want any murmuring from anyone against our vision of an open, free trade Europe—the best possible free trade deal, leading the world towards free trade and untold prosperity?

  • My hon. Friend has made an excellent point. Members on both sides of the House know very well that 80% or 85% of us were elected on a very clear manifesto pledge to come out of the European Union, to come out of the single market and—as the leader of the Labour party has said—to come out of the customs union as well. Nothing could be clearer than that. I think that what the people of this country want us to do is get on and deliver a great Brexit, and I have no doubt that, with the support of Opposition Members, we can achieve it.

  • Does the Foreign Secretary agree with the Chancellor and the First Secretary of State that we shall need a transitional period of at least three years during which we will remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice?

  • No. Neither the Chancellor nor the First Secretary of State has said any such thing.

  • Order. My apologies to the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), who rose momentarily after his right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw)—cue him being called second, but I am sure he does not mind.

  • I am grateful, Mr Speaker.

    In March, the Foreign Secretary said that leaving the EU with no deal would be perfectly okay. Last month, however, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that that would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain. Given that the two positions are clearly completely contradictory, who should the British public believe?

  • I think that what the British public can take from both the Chancellor and myself—and, indeed, from the vast majority of Labour Members, as I understand their position—is that we all want to get on and do the deal, to do the best deal possible, and to leave the EU.

  • What lessons does my right hon. Friend take from the Australian Government, who negotiated free trade deals with China, Japan and South Korea in very short order by focusing on trade itself rather than getting bogged down in disputes with regard to standards, legalities and regulations?

  • I agree very much with what my hon. Friend has said. I think that, with a bit of gumption and a bit of positive energy, there is no limit to what we can achieve, and we should get on and do it. Of course, we cannot ink in the free trade deals now, but we can certainly pencil in the outlines.

  • Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman was reported as saying that,

    “the transition rules could involve the European Court of Justice for a limited time…that’s all a matter for negotiation.”

    That is the quote that was reported. So can the Foreign Secretary confirm this change in Government policy, and set out the rationale behind it?

  • We are in a negotiation whose objective is to come out from under the penumbra of the European Court of Justice, and outside the EU legal order, and that is what we will achieve.

  • Since we joined the Common Market on 1 January 1973 until the date we leave, we will have given the EU and its predecessors, in today’s money in real terms, a total of £209 billion. Will the Foreign Secretary make it clear to the EU that if it wants a penny piece more, it can go whistle?

  • I am sure that my hon. Friend’s words will have broken like a thunderclap over Brussels and they will pay attention to what he has said. He makes a very valid point; the sums that I have seen that they propose to demand from this country seem to me to be extortionate, and I think that to “go whistle” is an entirely appropriate expression.

  • 21. Will the Secretary of State ensure, in a spirit of co-operation, that the final Brexit deal is endorsed by the devolved Parliaments before it is signed? [900358]

  • As the hon. Gentleman knows very well, we work closely under the Joint Ministerial Committee to bring in the devolved Administrations and make sure the great deal we are going to get has their endorsement and approval.

  • Further to the question by the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), did my right hon. Friend hear the report on the “Today” programme this morning that other European leaders were making it clear that they would not accept a deal on any terms, and does he share my view that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander?

  • I congratulate my hon. Friend on the birth of what I believe is his sixth child. He makes a very good point about the negotiating stance of our friends and partners across the channel. They do sound at the moment pretty hard over, as we say in the Foreign Office, but I have no doubt that in the fullness of time a suppleness will descend, and a willingness to compromise, because, after all, a great Brexit deal, a great free trade deal, and a deep and special partnership is in the interests of both sides of the channel.

  • Given the Prime Minister’s appeal to these Benches to help her out today, where does the Foreign Secretary think there are areas for compromise?

  • As I have said before, the striking thing about this debate is how much unanimity there really is between the two sides of the Chamber on these fundamental questions, and I have been very struck that the leader of the Labour party seems to be very much on all fours with the objectives of the Brexit—[Interruption.] He very much agrees with the position we are taking, and I hope to see him in the Lobby with us.

  • I hate to disagree with the Foreign Secretary: while he is right to say that the Leader of the Opposition is fully behind the Government and those on the Conservative Benches are fully behind the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, the Opposition are hopelessly split on this issue, and is that not hindering the Government’s negotiating position?

  • It is not for me to comment on the ability of the Labour leader to control his own party. I take it that Labour Members are all following official Labour party policy, which is to come out of the EU and the single market. If they are not, they can stand up now and, by their questions, betray their real position, but as far as I know they are supporting the will of the British people as expressed last year. If they wish to dissent from that, now is the time.

  • May I start by welcoming the new Foreign Office Front Benchers to their positions? Back in July last year, they chastised me when I wrongly accused them of being an all-male team. If only I had waited a year, I would have been correct after all.

    Talking of female Tory MPs, the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) used a disgusting, racist phrase in her comments at the East India Club, and I hope the Foreign Secretary will join me in condemning them; I hope he will agree that derogatory, offensive language deriving from the era of American slavery has no place in modern society. But the hon. Lady was at least trying to ask a valid question—a question about what would happen if Britain failed to reach a deal on Brexit. So may I ask the Foreign Secretary to answer that question today? Can he explain what that no deal option would mean for the people and businesses of Great Britain?

  • As I said before, the chances of such an outcome are vanishingly unlikely, since it is manifestly in the interests of those on both sides of the channel to get a great free trade deal and a new deep and special partnership between us and the European Union. That is what we are going to achieve.

  • I thank the Foreign Secretary for that answer, but unfortunately it leaves us none the wiser. This is slightly baffling because it was, after all, the Prime Minister—the Prime Minister for now, at least—who decided to put the no deal option on the table. She could not stop using the phrase during the election campaign. But now, when we ask what it would mean in practice, the Government refuse to tell us. The Foreign Affairs Committee said in December:

    “The Government should require each Department to produce a ‘no deal’ plan, outlining the likely consequences…and setting out proposals to mitigate potential risks.”

    It went on to state that anything less would be a “dereliction of duty”, and that we cannot have a repeat—

  • Order. I apologise for interrupting the right hon. Lady but she really does need to bring herself to a single-sentence question, because there are lots of colleagues who want to take part. She is normally very succinct, but today is an exception. Return to form!

  • Given that a plan for no deal would be worse than that dereliction of duty, will the Foreign Secretary spell out publicly what no deal would mean? If he is not prepared to tell us that publicly, can he reassure us that at the very least he has a detailed private plan to manage that risk?

  • There is no plan for no deal, because we are going to get a great deal. For the sake of illustration, I remind the right hon. Lady that there was a time, which I am old enough to remember, when Britain was not in what we then called the Common Market.

  • Mayflower Pilgrims

  • 3. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower pilgrims in 2020 in the UK and abroad. [900340]

  • Foreign Office officials are working closely with colleagues from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to prepare for the 400th anniversary. I am pleased that Oliver Colvile, the former Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, has been appointed chair of the Mayflower committee by the Prime Minister. The committee will make the most of the opportunity to commemorate the legacy of the pilgrims and the special relationship.

  • I thought the Prime Minister wanted help from Opposition Members, and here I am, available—the re-elected co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the Mayflower pilgrims—unlike Olly, who now has other pursuits to pursue. I was prepared to offer my services to take on that role, rather than a non-parliamentarian. Nevertheless, can the good people of Bassetlaw expect support from this Government, as promised by George Osborne, to properly celebrate the fact that the pilgrims and their legacy—including the modern United States—originated in Bassetlaw?

  • At least the hon. Gentleman did not claim that Bassetlaw had strong coastal links. We already welcome his contribution to the House in the form of the comments he made on 9 March 2016, when he reminded us that the anniversary would provide an “historic opportunity” for us to celebrate. Across the House, we will think of every possible way in which we can do so to best effect.

  • The importance of this anniversary, in British-American relations, can hardly be overstated. Would not 2020 be a more suitable date for a state visit from the President of the United States, to mark that anniversary, rather than in the months to come?

  • I note my hon. Friend’s suggestion, but that matter is already in train and the visit—offer to the President—stands.

  • Ukraine

  • 4. What steps he is taking to support economic and political development in Ukraine. [900341]

  • The UK is in the lead on this issue, helping Ukraine to make the vital reforms that it needs, and to continue to crack down on corruption, which is so important if we are going to encourage long-term and continued investment in a successful Ukraine.

  • I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the organisation last week of the Ukraine reform conference in London, which demonstrated that Britain will continue to play a leading role on the world stage in the years to come. Can he confirm that, while Ukraine still faces major challenges, progress is being made in areas such as tackling corruption? Will he also tell us what more can be done to assist it?

  • May I get the ball back over the net by congratulating my right hon. Friend on becoming chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Ukraine? All of us in this House have a clear interest in a strong and successful Ukraine, which is why we have invested another £33 million in helping the Ukrainians to tackle their governance problems. The House should be in no doubt about what is going on in Ukraine. It is, if you like, an arm wrestle between two value systems: our way of looking at the world and the Russian way of looking at the world. It is vital for our continent and for this country that our way prevails. With British help, I believe that it is prevailing and will prevail.

  • 23. Is not one of the real problems that the Russians are actively meddling in Ukraine? So far, there has been no sign of all the efforts that Britain has rightly made paying dividends in Russia stopping its corrupt meddling in that country. [900360]

  • The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that the fault lies squarely with Russia. Russia annexed Crimea and continues to drive the problems in the Donbass. The UK is contributing to the efforts to stave off Russian military meddling with the non-lethal equipment that we have agreed to send to Ukraine. More importantly, however, we are engaged in helping the Ukrainians to sort out their domestic political scene and to crack down on corruption. To be fair to them, not only are they seeing growth of 1.5% or 4%, depending on whose figures are to be believed, but they have made more progress in cracking down on corruption in the past three years than in the past 25 years. A very different country is being born.

  • Canada: Diplomatic Relations

  • 5. What recent assessment he has made of the strength of the UK's diplomatic relations with Canada. [900342]

  • Our bilateral relationship is strong because it is a deep bond of friendship that is rooted in our shared histories and common values. We look forward to strengthening those ties over the coming years and have agreed to hold regular strategic talks to maximise the full potential of this important bilateral relationship.

  • I thank the Minister for that response. Canadian investment is hugely important in my constituency and across the UK. As we move forward with leaving the European Union and seeking a free trade deal with Canada, our relationship will be more important—specifically our relationships with the provincial governments. Do we have a network in place across Canada to ensure that we are making the best of those relationships?

  • On the House’s behalf, may I express our sympathy to all those in British Columbia who have been affected by the damaging wildfires? Our consulates-general in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver work with provincial governments to increase bilateral trade and investment, particularly in the infrastructure sector. We are working across all levels of the Canadian Government to ensure that British companies can take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the Canada-EU comprehensive economic and trade agreement.

  • I have strong family relationships in Canada. Is the Minister not aware that senior diplomats in Canada are absolutely aghast at how this Government are handling our withdrawal from Europe and its impact on world trade? They believe that this swashbuckling sector of Ministers are not the right people—[Interruption.] Well, I have to say that positive energy and gumption will not give us a good deal in Europe. We need people who have an eye for detail; this Foreign Secretary has no idea about detail.

  • I simply do not recognise the analysis that the hon. Gentleman offers the House on any matter that he just mentioned. Our opportunities for future trade with Canada will be enormous once we have left the European Union.

  • 24. I thank the Minister for his answers so far. As he will be aware, 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation, and our two nations have faced together some of the most difficult challenges in history during that period. Does he agree that that provides a great opportunity to build on our relationship and that we should reject the nonsense that we have just heard? [900361]

  • Yes, I agree emphatically with my hon. Friend. We offer our congratulations to Canada on the 150th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation, and we are pleased that Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were able to join the celebrations in Ottawa to mark the occasion. On a practical basis, the Foreign Secretary met Foreign Minister Freeland last week and agreed to hold regular strategic talks to ensure that we can maximise the full potential of this important and close bilateral relationship way beyond the expectations of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman).

  • Diplomatic Relations: Philippines

  • 6. What steps he is taking to strengthen diplomatic relations with the Philippines. [900343]

  • We have a strong and wide-ranging relationship with the Philippines on prosperity, education and security issues. Ministerial visits to the Philippines and annual high-level talks between officials help to progress that co-operation—my hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma), the former Minister for Asia and the Pacific, was there as recently as last December—which enables us to discuss human rights concerns while pursuing closer diplomatic and trade links.

  • My constituent Kevin Taylor has been held in the Philippines since 2008. The Filipino authorities continually delayed his case, held him in unsafe conditions and, finally, sentenced him to 12 years for an employment offence. They have now failed even to acknowledge a clemency request, despite his very poor health. With his health failing further and amid concerns about the safety of the institution, and with his parents worried that they will not see him again, will my right hon. Friend set out what is being done to support the family’s efforts to bring him home?

  • I thank my hon. Friend for all his assiduous work over many years on behalf of Mr Taylor’s parents, his constituents in North Swindon. We have been providing ongoing consular and welfare support to Kevin Taylor since his arrest almost 10 years ago. Most recently, he was visited in prison, and we liaised with his parents only yesterday. Our consular support has also extended to delivering funds and vitamins. Most recently, we requested additional medical appointments after Mr Taylor brought his health concerns to our attention. A clemency request was made as recently as 2015, but I reassure my hon. Friend that we will do our level best to continue that work. I will be in touch with our department in Manila to ask it to redouble those efforts in the days ahead.

  • In the year since Rodrigo Duterte became President of the Philippines, 13,000 people have been killed. He has threatened to extend martial law across the entire country, and last week he said that he would eat the livers of terrorists with salt and vinegar, but the Secretary of State for International Trade claims that Britain has “shared values” with President Duterte. Can the Minister tell the House which values we share with the President?

  • The hon. Lady will recognise that there are shared values on international trade, and it is not an issue of ditching anything else. I, like her, am very concerned by the high death toll in the war on illegal drugs that has come to a head under President Duterte. We have been urging much more thorough and independent investigations into all violent deaths, and the Foreign Office has repeatedly raised, and will continue to raise, human rights concerns with the Administration. I hope to visit Manila at some point to make precisely the case that the hon. Lady has made.

  • Zimbabwe

  • 7. What recent assessment he has made of the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe. [900344]

  • I pay tribute to the hon. Lady’s long campaign on this subject. Our policy on Zimbabwe continues to be to try to balance our deep distaste at the horrifying record of the Mugabe regime with a genuine concern for the humanitarian needs of the Zimbabwean people, who have suffered terribly over the past 40 years.

  • I welcome the Minister to his position and wish him every success.

    Mugabe spent $53 million on private travel overseas last year. At the same time, the United Kingdom is paying proportionately more in aid to that country than to any other country in Africa. Does the Minister think that, with the elections coming next year and Mugabe refusing to implement the 2013 constitution, now is the time to put some of that money into helping voter education in those rural areas controlled by ZANU-PF, or we will not have free and fair elections?

  • I agree. We are trying to balance a very difficult thing, which, as the hon. Lady says, is the terrible performance of the Mugabe regime with the fact that people in that country have been dying of cholera and suffering extreme humanitarian need. The hon. Lady is absolutely correct that focusing on free and fair elections is one of the most important things we can do in a country such as Zimbabwe.

  • The policy of incremental engagement with Zimbabwe is obviously the best—sometimes an unpalatable best—policy, but will the Minister consider visiting Zimbabwe in the near term, as that would be a great step forward and would perhaps put the UK in a better position for the relationship in the longer term?

  • My hon. Friend has huge expertise as a former Africa Minister. The decision on whether or not I, as the Minister, visit Zimbabwe depends a great deal on the genuine commitment to reform of the Zimbabwean Government, and I will be guided by the ambassador in the country on when such a visit would be necessary and possible.

  • Venezuela

  • 8. What discussions he has had with his international counterparts on the breakdown in the rule of law in Venezuela. [900345]

  • My colleagues and I are in close contact with our international counterparts, including most recently at the Organisation of American States summit in Cancun last month. I issued a very strong statement on 6 July, utterly condemning the 5 July attack on Venezuela’s National Assembly and its elected Members, and calling for the Venezuelan Government to uphold the constitution and show respect for democratic institutions. That statement was echoed by many colleagues across the world.

  • The Leader of the Opposition described the regime in Venezuela as offering an “alternative agenda” from which we could learn. The alternative agenda has seen the economy collapse and poverty increase. It has seen scores of people killed in civil unrest and now an attempt to undermine both the elected Congress and the independent attorney general. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Her Majesty’s Government strongly condemn the attempt by the Maduro regime to rewrite the constitution and rub out democracy?

  • The Leader of the Opposition does seem to be a great fan of the Venezuelan Government, giving a passable impression himself of Fidel Castro, one sometimes thinks. What is happening to the Venezuelan economy gives us a clear indication of what would happen to the UK economy if ever the right hon. Gentleman were Prime Minister.

  • What practical steps have the British Government taken to deal with famine on the border between Venezuela and Colombia?

  • There are no easy such attempts; we do not have a bilateral programme, but we are in touch with the United Nations. The hon. Lady’s very question illustrates the extent to which the Venezuelan Government have driven their own people to poverty; they are running short of the some of the most basic goods on which they have to live.

  • Illegal Settlements: Occupied Palestinian Territories

  • 9. What steps he is taking to encourage the Israeli authorities to stop the building of illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. [900346]

  • We regularly raise these issues with Israel, calling for a reversal of the policy of settlement expansion. I reiterated that in the House of Commons last week, and recently both the Foreign Secretary and I have made statements strongly condemning proposals for new settlement expansion in both the west bank and East Jerusalem.

  • Only last week, the right-wing Israeli Government announced a further expansion of the illegal settlement programme, so it is clear that whatever action the British Government are taking it is not working. Is it not therefore time that Her Majesty’s Government gave a more robust response to this problem, including by discouraging investment in and trade with the illegal settlements, and ensuring the proper labelling of imported goods so that they are designated as coming from “an illegally Occupied Palestinian Territory”?

  • This is a long and difficult process, as the hon. Gentleman rightly knows. We have a policy on labelling, and continued conversations will go on with the state of Israel in relation to suggestions, such as we heard last week, that new housing units should be built in East Jerusalem. This is a complex process and the UK does not believe in boycotts or sanctions, but clear labelling has been in place for some time so that consumers can take their choice.

  • We have contributed to a number of EU structures that have been demolished. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Government of Israel for our money back?

  • I think my right hon. Friend is referring to some work done by the EU. The EU has not sought compensation from the state of Israel in relation to that, and no decision has been taken on any further action.

  • Settlements are a barrier, but they are far from the only barrier to peace. The building blocks for the peace process are trade and economic development in the west bank; demilitarisation and democracy in Gaza; and support for co-existence projects that get Israelis and Palestinians working together, the funding for which, I am sorry to say, this Government have stopped. Will the Minister reinstate funding for co-existence projects, to build the peace process?

  • The hon. Gentleman understands this issue extremely well, and I agree with his analysis that this is a complex issue, where there are many different building blocks to try to revitalise the peace process, and settlements are far from the only barrier to that. Trade and investment remain important, but we will be looking further at what prospects there are for any new initiatives. I am aware of the co-existence projects that he mentions, and I will certainly be looking at that when carrying out my joint responsibilities in the Department for International Development.

  • We are all glad to see the Minister for the Middle East back and working on this issue again, but this is the second time in the space of a week that the Foreign Secretary has declined to speak about the middle east and devolved the job to the Minister instead—and that follows his failure even to mention Israel or Palestine in the Tory election manifesto. I simply ask the Minister: when are we going to hear the Foreign Secretary stand up and condemn the new illegal settlements?

  • I thank the hon. Lady for her warm welcome. I much enjoy being back in this role, no matter what is thrown at me as part of it. The Foreign Secretary strongly condemned the proposals that were announced for the west bank recently. I like to think he has confidence in his Minister for the Middle East—as he has confidence in his full ministerial team—to answer appropriate questions, although I have never known him to be shy of answering a question when necessary.

  • Climate Change

  • 10. What steps the Government are taking to support the implementation of the Paris agreement on climate change. [900347]

  • The United Kingdom was instrumental in securing the Paris agreement on climate change. We are helping other countries to meet their targets and we are confident that we will be able to meet our own groundbreaking target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050.

  • Last week, Downing Street said that the Prime Minister intended to challenge President Trump on climate change at the G20 meeting. Would it not have been better to do that before he announced that the United States was pulling out of the Paris agreement, rather than after?

  • As I have told the House before, we have repeatedly made our views clear to the US Administration. We have expressed our dismay that they have withdrawn, but on the other hand all Members, on both sides of the House, should in all fairness acknowledge that the United States has made and continues to make, even under this Administration, substantial progress in reducing greenhouse gases. This country has reduced CO2 emissions by 42% since 1990, despite a 67% increase in GDP; the United States has achieved comparable progress, and we intend to encourage it on that path.

  • Following Donald Trump’s isolation on the issue of the Paris agreement at last week’s G20 summit, and his further postponement of his visit to the UK, I ask the Secretary of State a simple question: do the Government still regard President Trump as the leader of the free world? If so, how do they rate the job he is doing, as a mark out of 10?

  • I hesitate to say it, but we certainly regard as very considerable the Prime Minister’s achievement in getting the US President to sign up to the G20 agreement on climate change, as she did.

  • Absolutely right. The Prime Minister was instrumental in getting the Americans to sign up to the communiqué. Members on both sides of the House will appreciate that whatever their disagreements with the current incumbent of the White House, the President of the United States is the leader of our most important ally, and he therefore deserves this country’s respect and consideration.

  • Human Rights

  • 11. What discussions he has had with his counterparts in other countries on promoting human rights. [900348]

  • With the Foreign Secretary’s permission, I can say that ensuring the promotion of human rights and engaging with this issue is an essential part of the foreign policy of global Britain. Ministers meet their counterparts regularly and raise issues including those relating to LGBTI people, gender equality, modern slavery, freedom of belief and religion, the death penalty and torture. This is an essential part of who we are as the United Kingdom and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

  • Back in March, the UN Human Rights Council established an independent commission to investigate the many alleged atrocities committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar. In the light of ongoing abuses, including recent reports of Rohingya women being raped by the security forces, does the Minister agree that the perpetrators of such crimes should be brought to justice as a matter of urgency, and what steps is he taking to progress these cases?

  • I welcome the hon. Lady to the House. I was recently in Burma and was able to reaffirm the United Kingdom’s support for the independent United Nations Commission. Again, those in Burma are wrestling with this very difficult issue. The United Kingdom remains very close to the humanitarian needs of the Rohingya people in Rakhan.

  • The World Trade Organisation estimates that three out of four new trade deals include provisions to improve human rights around the world. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with his colleagues in the Department for International Trade to ensure that, where appropriate, our new trade deals include obligations to improve human rights?

  • My right hon. Friend is right: ensuring that human rights are an essential part of the United Kingdom’s policy on trade deals is an important part of the future and will continue to be a key part of our prosperity drive.

  • 25. Following the arrests of Amnesty International Turkey director and chair, Idil Eser, and Taner Kılıç—both examples of a worrying shift away from respect for human rights in Turkey—what steps is the Foreign Secretary taking to ensure their immediate and unconditional release? [900362]

  • The right hon. Lady knows these issues extremely well. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised the matter with his counterpart, and the Prime Minister raised it with the President of Turkey at the G20. This remains a very important issue for the United Kingdom.

  • 15. On his recent visit to Burma, did my right hon. Friend encourage the Burmese Government to allow full access and to co-operate fully with the fact-finding mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees into human rights issues in that country? [900352]

  • Yes, indeed. It is a difficult issue, but we have made it clear that the UN independent report needs full consideration. We have urged the Government to do all they can to facilitate what the UN needs to complete its work. An internal investigation is already being carried out by the Burmese Government.

  • 19. Kamal Foroughi and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe are in prison in Iran. We have been unable to gain access to them through our consul. What efforts are being made to use other countries to ensure that the human rights and, in particular, medical needs of these two people are protected? [900356]

  • I met Richard Ratcliffe and the family just last week. I have already raised this issue directly with my counterpart, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran, and with the Iranian ambassador here. We remain very concerned about this and other consular cases involving Iran. I assure the hon. Lady and the House that we will continue to raise them at the highest level.

  • Order. I hope to hear briefly from Fabian Hamilton from the Front Bench, because I want to get through two more questions.

  • As the Government celebrated their victory in the High Court over arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the number of people affected by the cholera epidemic in Yemen passed 300,000. Humanitarian workers now face the agonising choice of whether to use their dwindling food supplies to feed those children suffering from malnutrition or those infected with cholera. In that context, will the Minister tell the House why the Saudi-led coalition continues to use British bombs to attack farms, food factories and water plants?

  • Yesterday’s court judgment was unequivocal in stating that the United Kingdom had fulfilled its obligations on controlling the arms trade. The work being done with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on its response to international humanitarian law was fundamental to that judgment. The situation in Yemen remains a humanitarian disaster. The United Kingdom is actively involved in seeking to do all it can. The cholera outbreak is currently claiming some 6,500 new cases every day. I am pleased that the Department for International Development is fully engaged and is trying to do all it can to mitigate these actions.

  • My right hon. Friend—[Interruption.]

  • He is new, and I thought that I was new too.

  • Maldives

  • 12. What recent assessment he has made of the political situation in the Maldives. [900349]

  • Like many in the House, I am concerned that democratic freedoms continue to face restriction in the Maldives. Pressure on Opposition politicians, including arrests and prosecutions, has grown. Human rights activists, civil society and the media are under increasing threat. Her Majesty’s Government, I assure the House, raise these issues frequently with the Government of the Maldives, and we led the recent UN statement in the June Human Rights Council.

  • Apologies, Mr Speaker; I am new to the House.

    My right hon. Friend the Minister will know that a coalition of opposition parties in the Maldives, led by former President Mohamed Nasheed and committed to democracy and to improving relations with this country, has secured a majority in that country’s Parliament. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that the regime of President Yameen might resort to illegal means to prevent Parliament from functioning properly in that country?

  • I am very concerned about that prospect. In recent years, in any part of the political environment in the Maldives, no one’s hands have been entirely clean—it has not been a happy situation across the board. The Government’s biggest regret is that the Maldives unilaterally left the Commonwealth in 2016, and I very much hope that a new regime will bring them back into the international regime.

  • UN Peacekeeping Operations

  • 13. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of proposed reductions to US financial contributions to the UN budget on the delivery of UN peacekeeping operations. [900350]

  • We should pay tribute to what the United States has done with its peacekeeping budget. It provides well over a quarter of the global peacekeeping budget: over $2 billion a year, which is largely not “odable”. We need to pay tribute to the US and to encourage it to continue to play a role, as it is a central part of peacekeeping worldwide. Its sticking to the congressional limit of 25% is vital for UN peacekeeping operations.

  • Does the Minister agree that the loss of financial support from the US will be devastating for UN agencies such as the World Food Programme and the UN Refugee Agency? Will he therefore urge the Trump Administration to reconsider their planned cuts?

  • It is absolutely right, of course, that in the current global situation UN peacekeeping operations are vital, but reforms can be introduced. The move in Cote d’Ivoire to close down the peacekeeping operation and the changes in Darfur are welcome. We can reduce peacekeeping costs, but it is vital that the United States and others continue to play a strong role. American financial support has been vital for the past 50 years, and we hope that it will continue to be over the next 50.

  • Topical Questions

  • May I remind colleagues that topical questions are supposed to be short? If Members insist on asking long questions they will be cut off, as it is not fair on colleagues.

  • T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [900328]

  • My immediate priority is to help to resolve the tensions in the Gulf, where Britain has old friendships and vital interests. That is why I have just returned from visits to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, where I reinforced the need for dialogue and de-escalation. Tomorrow, I will attend a summit in Trieste on the western Balkans region, where the UK is playing a vital role in guaranteeing stability and resisting Russian ambitions.

  • In Jammu Kashmir yesterday terrorists brutally murdered seven Hindu pilgrims, including five women, as they undertook amaranth yatra. What action has my right hon. Friend taken to condemn that terrorist outrage, and what support will he give to recovering and bringing to justice the terrorists, who, we believe, emanate from Pakistan?

  • I thank my hon. Friend for his question. We are in close contact with the Indian and Pakistani high commissioners about Kashmir. I assure him that we will bring this up over the next 24 hours and ask for a plan of action, as he requests.

  • Does the Foreign Secretary agree that if there is to be an extension of military action in Syria there should be a full debate and vote in the House?

  • That is for the Leader of the House to consider, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that no such request has been made. The difference in the American Administration’s attitude and engagement, for which many Opposition Members have called, is to be welcomed.

  • T2. As America appears to be voluntarily surrendering both power and influence, and with our impending departure from the main platform of our influence over the past several decades, is it not vital that the Foreign Office now invests substantially to beef up our diplomatic effort so that we may retain our prosperity, security and influence abroad? [900329]

  • I am delighted to welcome my right hon. Friend to a cause that is gathering strength among Members on both sides of the House. Everybody understands that a truly global Britain must be properly supported and financed. We have a world-class network of 278 embassies and legations across the world. We have the best foreign service in the world, but it needs proper financing and support.

  • T4. The Foreign Secretary has spoken in the past about his ardent opposition to female genital mutilation. Will he therefore have a word with the Home Secretary, who is yet to respond to me and my constituent Lola Ilesanmi? She is threatened with deportation and her child faces mutilation. I raised her case with the Prime Minister but have yet to receive an answer. [900331]

  • I think I heard the hon. Lady raise this matter before. The case of her constituent is, indeed, very troubling. I am sure that the Home Secretary will have picked up what the hon. Lady has said today.

  • T3. I welcome the part played by British forces in stabilising the threat posed by Daesh. What role does my right hon. Friend see for British forces in ensuring that such an insurgency does not recur? [900330]

  • I thank my hon. Friend for a really excellent question. It is one thing for us to drive Daesh out of Mosul and Raqqa, but we must ensure that the reasons it sprouted in those cities do not recur and that the Sunni minority in Iraq have conditions of governance that give them confidence in the future of their country.

  • T5. Not since the Suez crisis have the United Kingdom Government been so comprehensively defeated at the United Nations as they were last week over the Chagos Islands. In this week’s spirit of bipartisan co-operation, should the Foreign Secretary not just grant the right of return? [900332]

  • I respectfully disagree with the hon. Gentleman. In point of fact, we secured rather more positive votes than we expected. As it happens, the other side of the case got fewer than half the members of the UN in support of its cause. Most impartial observers would agree that that side of the case had been substantially weakened as a result—not that it was a strong case to begin with.

  • T10. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last week that he would continue paying prisoner salaries, even to people who have murdered innocent civilians, if it cost him his job. Does the Minister agree that there is no way in which there will be peace in the middle east without co-existence projects and support for co-existence on the Palestinian side? [900337]

  • My hon. Friend is right: there are a number of barriers on the Palestinian side to being able to make progress, including support for incitement and terror. The Department for International Development is looking extremely carefully to ensure that no payments go in the wrong direction. It is certainly true that the Palestinian Authority needs to look very hard at ensuring that it is not giving the wrong signals as we try to make progress on the middle east peace process.

  • T6. Foreign Office questions, and still my constituent Ray Tindall and the other men of the Chennai Six are incarcerated in India. Will the Secretary of State pick up the phone to his opposite number in India and do a deal to get the men deported so that Ray and I can have a pint in Chester before the summer is out? [900333]

  • I appreciate the persistence with which the hon. Gentleman campaigns for his constituents. He has raised this issue with me several times. As he would like, I have personally raised the matter repeatedly with my Indian counterparts. They have told me that they cannot interfere in their court system any more than we can interfere in our own. That is where the matter currently stands, but I assure him that we continue to raise it on his behalf and on behalf of his constituents.

  • It is striking that Commonwealth countries trade 25% more with each other at a cost that is 90% lower than with non-Commonwealth countries. Does the Minister agree that, as we leave the EU, we have a great opportunity to boost our mutual trade and security interests by enhancing our diplomatic relations with Ghana and other Commonwealth countries?

  • I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who is our trade envoy to Ghana. Ghana is one of the most impressive recent developments in Africa, with three recent transitions of democratic power and a rapidly growing economy. It is a huge example of how the Commonwealth can become one of the great success stories of Britain’s next five years, as we move towards the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

  • T8. The Paralympic games in Rio were a great success, showcasing inspirational talent and the importance of sports inclusion worldwide. What discussions has the Foreign Office had with Japanese counterparts to lend our full support to the Tokyo Paralympic games? [900335]

  • I thank the hon. Lady for her question. She can rest assured that a huge amount of work is going on, partly on the security side, with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Security, but there is also, very importantly, as she rightly says, the sheer organisation. We are working closely to make sure there is seamless progress between 2012 and 2020, albeit that we have had Rio in the meantime. I think the Paralympic games in Tokyo are going to be a great success.

  • In the next few weeks, the House of Representatives Government from Benghazi in Libya are coming to visit the UK. Would my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary or any of his colleagues on the Front Bench like to meet them, because they are playing a pivotal role in trying to keep peace in Libya?

  • An expansion of the Libyan political agreement is necessary to move matters along. There is a lot happening on the political and the business side in Libya as it gets back on its feet. I would be happy to meet those whom my hon. Friend wants to bring forward.

  • Given the collapse of the talks in Cyprus and the fact that the Government remain a guarantor of the process, what are they going to do now?

  • Very sadly, the Cyprus talks, on which people had done so much work for over two years, collapsed in the early hours of Friday morning in Crans-Montana, near Geneva. This was a once-in-a-generation chance to reunify the island; sadly, it has been missed and rejected, so we go back to the status quo ante. It is an enormous pity—indeed, a tragedy—for future generations that agreement was not reached.

  • In view of the continuing concerns about human rights in Hong Kong, does my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary intend to make any further representations on the joint declaration?

  • I hope my hon. Friend will be assured that the UK has been very active in emphasising the significance of the Sino-British joint declaration—a legally binding treaty registered with the UN that continues to be in force today. During my meeting with the Chinese ambassador on 5 July, I stressed the UK’s strong commitment to that joint declaration. We urge the Chinese and the Hong Kong special administration Governments and all elected politicians in Hong Kong to refrain from any actions that fuel concerns or undermine confidence in the one country, two systems principle.

  • The Foreign Secretary has rightly underlined the importance of US-UK relations in this new world, but that relationship is kept alive by cultural and exchange programmes such as the Fulbright programme, which is now imperilled by President Trump’s proposal to cut 47% from its budget. Will the Foreign Secretary make representations to underline the fact that we think programmes such as Fulbright should be expanded and not pushed to the point of extinction?

  • I stand here as a Kennedy scholar, which is a very similar structure, and we have a fantastic programme of Chevening scholars sponsored by the Foreign Office. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has confirmed that he will raise the Fulbright scholarships with Secretary Tillerson when he next sees him.

  • With 250,000 people from Burundi now refugees as a result of the repression and human rights abuses in that country, what is the Foreign Secretary doing to stimulate dialogue to resolve the political impasse there?

  • The situation in Burundi is very disturbing. We call, above all, on the Burundian President to respect the Arusha accords and to give proper space to the former Tanzanian Prime Minister in leading the peace talks. In Burundi, as in so many countries in the world, the only long-term solution is a political solution to a humanitarian crisis.

  • Will the Foreign Secretary meet the members of the all-party group for friends of Syria to discuss the desperate need to get more aid to the hundreds of thousands being starved to death by al-Assad in Syria?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for his persistence in pursuing this cause. He is absolutely right, and we have spoken across this Chamber many times about the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I will have great pleasure in meeting the Syria group to discuss what the UK is doing, but the House will know that this country is the second biggest contributor of humanitarian relief aid to Syria in the world.

  • While I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister raised the issue of the Chennai Six with Mr Modi at the G20, may I urge my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to focus his efforts on the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and to seek an urgent meeting with her? Our boys have been languishing in jail there for almost four years—I visited them myself—and it is time, frankly, that they were brought home.

  • My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. He suggests an interesting avenue for further work. I will certainly look at the possibility of talking to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Whether we will be any more successful with her in making our points, I will ascertain, but we will leave no stone unturned.

  • Last week, at the same time as representatives of 57 Parliaments were meeting in Minsk to discuss co-operation on human rights issues, the Belarusian authorities were convicting a human rights activist on charges on which defence witnesses were not allowed to testify. The defendant was taken to hospital during the trial and convicted in his absence. What action are the Government taking to make sure that the authorities in Belarus recognise the absolute right of anyone to a fair trial?

  • The most important thing we can do is to enhance our bilateral relations by visiting. No Minister has visited Belarus for many, many years, if at all, and I intend to do so at the earliest opportunity.

  • As well as the physical rebuilding of Mosul, one of the ways to reassure the people of Mosul is to devolve power to them, for which the Iraqi constitution allows. Will the Foreign Secretary urge the Iraqi Administration to look seriously at devolving power to the people of Mosul?

  • I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is of course right. Iraq is an ethnically divided and religiously divided country. We must make sure that everybody feels properly represented in the new constitution, and devolution to Mosul is certainly an option that we will be exploring.

  • Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), before the Foreign Secretary meets the all-party friends of Syria group, will he discuss a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians with the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence so that we can have a proper joined-up strategy at last?

  • I can tell the hon. Lady that that is already happening.

  • I am extremely grateful to the Foreign Secretary. I recognise that there is still unsatisfied demand, but not as much as there might have been if I had not overrun, which I was pleased to do. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary was equally enthusiastic.

  • Taylor Review: Working Practices

  • With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the independent review of modern working practices which was led by Matthew Taylor and published earlier today.

    The review sets out that British business is successful at creating jobs, enhancing earning power, and improving life chances across the UK. Employment rates are the highest since records began. Unemployment and economic inactivity are at record lows. More people are in work than ever before, and minimum wage rates have never been higher. This is a story of success that this Government will seek to sustain.

    The UK economy’s continued success is built on the flexibility of our labour market, which benefits both workers and business. Businesses can create jobs and individuals can find work because our labour market regulation balances the demands of both. Minimum standards set a baseline beyond which there is flexibility to set arrangements to suit all parties. Our dynamic approach responds well to fluctuations in the economic cycle, without the structural weaknesses present in some other countries. It is important that we preserve this success but also enhance it further. While the majority of people employed in the UK are in full-time, permanent employment, globalisation, demographics and especially technology are changing the way in which we work. We need to make sure the British labour market stays strong and everyone in the UK benefits from it.

    That is why last year the Prime Minister asked Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, to lead an independent review into employment practices in the modern economy. That review has now been published, and I am delighted to lay a copy in the House Library today. It is a thorough and detailed piece of work for which I am very grateful, not only to Matthew and his panel members but to the numerous businesses, trade unions, organisations and individuals who have provided their views on this very important topic.

    The review has a strong, overarching ambition that all work in the UK should be fair and decent, with realistic scope for fulfilment and progression. Matthew has outlined seven principles to meeting that ambition. I urge hon. Members to examine those principles and the rest of the report in detail, since it is an important contribution to a crucial subject.

    In summary, those principles are that our national strategy for work should be explicitly directed towards the goal of good work for all; that platform-based working offers welcome opportunities for genuine flexibility, but there should be greater distinction between workers—or, as the review suggests renaming them, “dependent contractors”—and those who are fully self-employed; that there should be additional protections for that group and stronger incentives for firms to treat them fairly; that the best way to achieve better work is through good corporate governance, good management and strong employment relations; that it is vital that individuals have realistically attainable ways to strengthen their future work prospects; that there should be a more proactive approach to workplace health; and that the national living wage is a powerful tool to raise the financial baseline of low-paid workers, but it needs to be accompanied by sectoral strategies, engaging employers, employees and stakeholders to raise prospects further.

    This is an independent review addressed to Government. Although we may not ultimately accept every recommendation in full, I am determined that we consider the report very carefully and we will respond fully by the end of the year.

    Matthew Taylor has been clear: the UK labour market is a success—the “British way” works. He has also said, however, that there are instances where it is not working fairly for everyone. For example, he highlights where our legislation needs updating or where flexibility seems to work only one way, to the benefit of the employer. We recognise the points made. We accept that as a country we now need to focus as much on the quality of the working experience, especially for those in lower-paid roles, as on the number of jobs we create, vital though that is.

    This Government have made a commitment to upholding workers’ rights. The Prime Minister has said repeatedly, in this House and elsewhere, that as we leave the EU there will be no roll-back of employment protections. The Queen’s Speech also set out that this Government will go further than that and seek to enhance rights and protections in the modern workplace. Today’s publication of the “Good Work” review, and the public consideration of Matthew’s recommendations that will follow, will help to inform the development of our industrial strategy this autumn. I commend this statement to the House.

  • When the Prime Minister took office last year, she stood on the steps of Downing Street stating that she was on the side of working people. Despite that rhetoric, the Conservatives have been in government for seven years and in that time have done very little for working people. They have presided over a lost decade of productivity growth. They have implemented the pernicious Trade Union Act 2016, which is, frankly, an ideological attack on the trade union movement, curbing its ability to fight for and represent workers’ interests. They have inflicted hardship on public sector workers with a pay cap that was confirmed for yet another year by the Department for Education yesterday. They promised workers on boards, but rowed back scared when powerful interests said that they were not particularly keen on the idea. And they introduced employment tribunal fees, which have made it much harder for workers to enforce their rights.

    Today’s publication of the Taylor review was a real opportunity to overhaul the existing employment system in a way that would protect workers in a rapidly changing world of work. But, in the words of the general secretary of Unite, the biggest union in the UK:

    “Instead of the serious programme the country urgently needs to ensure that once again work pays in this country…we got a depressing sense that insecurity is the inevitable new norm.”

    Indeed, the Minister confirmed that she might not even accept all the proposals in the Taylor report, in any event.

    Although the report is positive in sentiment in many areas, it misses many opportunities to clamp down on exploitation in the workplace. I do not have time to cover them all today, but I have specific concerns that the report may allow the Government to interpret references to the so-called dependent contractor in such a way as to allow them to row back on recent court victories for workers such as Uber drivers and those who work for Pimlico Plumbers.

    Recent case law has suggested that a worker on a platform should be entitled to the minimum wage as long as the app is switched on and they are ready and willing to accept trips. However, the review suggests that the platform may insist on payment by piece rate, such that only an average driver, working averagely hard, will earn 1.2 times the minimum wage. That raises issues of enforcement and regulation—what constitutes a reasonable piece rate across platforms?—and it is something of a retreat from the common law position. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will not undermine workers’ rights on the minimum wage in that way? Founder of Pimlico Plumbers and Conservative donor Charlie Mullins said this morning that the report holds Pimlico Plumbers up as an example of

    “best practice in the gig economy.”

    This is a company that our judicial system has found to be an example of worst practice.

    The report does very little to strengthen the enforcement of workers’ existing rights. Although Taylor agrees with Labour’s position on shifting the burden of proof to employers in determining self-employed status, the report does little else in that area, and it needs much more work. There is, for example, no movement at all on employment tribunal fees, which are a barrier to justice for many workers.

    If the Prime Minister wanted ideas on strengthening workers’ rights, she could just have come to us. Just four of our manifesto commitments would go a long way to ending the scourge of exploitation in the gig economy: giving all workers equal rights from day one; strengthening the enforcement of those rights by beefing up and better resourcing Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, rather than imposing pernicious cuts, and by allowing trade unions access to every workplace; abolishing employment tribunal fees; and fining employers who breach labour market rights and regulations.

    In the spirit of the so-called collaboration that the Prime Minister is so desperately seeking, will the Minister commit today to implementing those four simple measures, as a start? If not, will she accept that the Conservative party is not, and never will be, on the side of working people?

  • I am glad that the hon. Lady found some positive aspects in the report on which to compliment Matthew Taylor. I appreciate that she will not have had time to read it all yet, but I urge her to do so. It contains many recommendations that will be of benefit to workers and are worthy of the greater consideration that the Government will give them.

    I will not comment on each of the recommendations that the hon. Lady raised, because they are Matthew Taylor’s suggestions and, as I have said, they will be given due consideration. She criticised the Government’s record, so I would like to remind her that this Government have introduced the national living wage and presided over the minimum wage reaching its highest rate, in real terms, since its introduction. The wage increases in the last year have been highest among the lowest paid, thanks to the national living wage. We have nearly doubled the budget for the enforcement of the national living wage. We have doubled fines for companies that underpay their employees. We have banned the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts. We have done all that against the backdrop of protecting the growth in employment, which is, at almost 75%, at its highest level since records began.

    Our record is one of achievement. The hon. Lady criticises us for enacting the Trade Union Act 2016, but most reasonable people would not criticise the idea that workers who are members of trade unions should have a proper say when their union decides to take strike action. That is the primary purpose of the legislation.

    It is not all a garden of roses, otherwise the Prime Minister would not have requested Matthew Taylor to undertake the report. The Prime Minister said, when she announced Matthew Taylor’s investigation, that flexibility and innovation are vital parts of what make our economy strong, but it is essential that those virtues are combined with the right support and protections for workers. The Taylor review came to understand that flexibility does work for many people, and it is clear that an agile labour market is good for protecting employment.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that productivity is at the heart of boosting wages for lower-paid workers? There are some really good examples of employers, working with the Living Wage Foundation and others, who have managed to boost the pay of lower-skilled workers by focusing on productivity, and that should be at the heart of this issue.

  • I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. Productivity is central to our industrial strategy. We have established a £23 billion fund to promote quality jobs, better skills and the higher pay that is, as he says, so important.

  • I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and my trade union activity over the 20 years before my election.

    Today’s response to the Taylor review from the Government tells us everything we need to know about their frailty and approach to workers’ rights—a weak set of proposals that probably will not be implemented and a set of talking points that leaves the balance of power with employers and big business. It was interesting that neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister mentioned or commended the role of the trade unions in securing fair rights at work. Does the Minister agree that a “right to request” is different from a fundamental right enshrined in law? If a request is refused, what enforcement action will the Government take to force employers to do better?

    Does the Minister accept that the report makes no distinction between a flexible workforce and the exploitation of that workforce? Does she also agree that while the Taylor report tries to propose new rights, some of those rights have been secured by trade unions taking employers to court, as the shadow Minister suggested? Can the Minister tell us what action the Government will take to enforce minimum wage payments when 200,000 workers in the UK are not paid the minimum wage? Will the Government advertise rights at work services, such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and does the Minister agree that it is time for a fair rights at work Act to guarantee fundamental rights at work?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for his critique. The “right to request” has been useful and valuable when it comes to requesting flexible employment. In any case, it is a recommendation that Matthew made, but it certainly warrants careful consideration. The hon. Gentleman mentions enforcement, and we are committed to making sure that workers on zero-hours contracts or the minimum wage get paid what they are legally entitled to be paid. That is why we have doubled the resources available to HMRC in the last two years to ensure enforcement of those important laws.

  • I welcome Matthew Taylor’s report today and commend the Minister for her statement, especially on tackling maternity and pregnancy discrimination, which the report says has doubled in the last decade and needs more action. Will the Minister outline what provisions in the report address the issues raised by the Women and Equalities Committee about workers’ lack of rights to access antenatal care during the working day, which the Minister—in her response to the Committee’s report—indicated would be addressed through the Taylor report?

  • I commend my right hon. Friend for the work that the Committee, which she chaired, has done to tackle the outrageous discrimination against pregnant women, which has no place in the modern workplace. There are provisions in the Taylor report, but work is ongoing across Government to improve the opportunities for pregnant women in the workplace to ensure that we make history of such discrimination.

  • As someone who lobbied the Prime Minister with reports on the gig economy to establish such an inquiry, may I thank the Minister for her statement today? May I tease from her a little more about the Government’s position on the trade-off between minimum standards at the vulnerable end of the labour market and flexibility? If the news reports are right, Matthew Taylor goes for flexibility rather than always implementing the national minimum wage. May we have an undertaking from the Government that they will always abide by the national minimum wage, even if that means a loss in flexibility?

  • I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on all the work he did on these matters in chairing the Work and Pensions Committee in the last Parliament. I can assure him that minimum wages rates are sacrosanct. There will be no trade-off when it comes to ensuring that everybody is paid at least the minimum wage. When he reads the report, he will be more encouraged. Many of the people who attended the Taylor review’s evidence sessions said that they liked the flexibility of working atypically and that we should not lose that, but that flexibility should not be a one-way street with individuals absorbing all the risk. Although we will consider the recommendations further, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I very much agree with those sentiments.

  • Does the Minister welcome the fact that the review established that the majority of employers follow good practice, and agree that our focus should be on those who do not to ensure that we level the playing field for all employers, all employees and all businesses?

  • I agree strongly with my hon. Friend. Employers who choose to break the rules—they are a small minority, but they exist—must expect consequences for their actions. The vast majority of businesses behave properly towards their employees, and they must not find themselves at the wrong end of an uneven playing field.

  • I declare an interest having done some work with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development during my time outwith the House.

    I welcome the Prime Minister saying that there will be no roll-back of workers’ rights, but let me just say that those words are rather a departure from my experience of the Conservative position when I was Liberal Democrat Minister for employment relations in the coalition. I know that the Minister is genuine on this important issue, and it is a thoughtful report of more than 150 pages. As she prepares the Government’s response to the report, will she commit to consulting widely across the House through debates and speaking to the Select Committees on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, on Work and Pensions, and on Women and Equalities, to get the right response?

  • I thank the hon. Lady for her comments and commend her for her role in the coalition Government. I am glad that she acknowledges that the Government have moved forward in their appreciation of the difficulties faced by certain workers in the areas on which Matthew Taylor has focused. I can give her every assurance that we will indeed consult widely not only with industry, trade unions and members of the public, but across the House.

  • I welcome the report. At this early stage, can my hon. Friend give any indication as to what enhanced opportunities may be created for people with disabilities who are in the world of work or trying to enter it? They are a very important part of our constituency.

  • I thank my hon. Friend for that important point. The Department for Work and Pensions is undertaking various measures to improve the chances of people with disabilities accessing the workplace, and my Department is giving all the support it can to that inquiry.

  • Matthew Taylor said today that he wants employers to pay national insurance for people with whom they have a controlling and supervisory relationship. Do the Government plan to implement that aspect of the Taylor review, and can the Minister reassure workers that the Government do not plan to U-turn on their U-turn and increase national insurance for the genuinely self-employed?

  • I can assure the hon. Lady that, as the First Secretary of State said earlier this week, Parliament has spoken on the issue of national insurance class 4 contributions. That matter is now settled, and will not be revisited. I agree with her that we should pay close attention to ensure that people who are genuinely contracted to provide an ongoing service are given the protections that workers enjoy, and are not falsely labelled as self-employed.

  • On a similar point, will my hon. Friend confirm that there is a real risk that introducing the term “dependent contractors” will fudge the issue of whether someone is really employed or self-employed? Should we not focus on ensuring that the line is drawn in the right place and that those who engage so-called dependent contractors are paying employers’ national insurance, so that our own tax regime does not distort the market?

  • We will certainly consult carefully on those points. We will make sure not only that the Treasury is satisfied in respect of tax issues, but that we are satisfied that people are getting their rights if they are employees or workers—or, as Matthew Taylor is proposing to rename them, dependent contractors.

  • The Minister has welcomed the report. Is she in a position to accept any of its specific recommendations today? Can she tell us when there will be legislation to implement at least something in it, or is this all going to be batted off into the long grass?

  • As I said earlier, we will look at and consult on every single recommendation, but at this very early stage it is not really for me to say which I am personally inclined to recommend accepting and which I am not. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear with us. Over the next six months—well, I said by the year end; it might be a little longer than six months—we will consult widely across the House, and the right hon. Gentleman will have every opportunity to make his views known.

  • I spent 45 years in the gig economy, and what I liked about it was that it was very flexible. In order to build a career, I found myself delivering bacon across north London from Smithfield market. I also became a removal man, among many other things. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is welcome that the report supports a flexible labour market, and is not in favour of restricting that flexibility when individuals want it?

  • I think my hon. Friend has read the summary of Matthew Taylor’s report very carefully because he understands that balance. He does not want us to end the flexibilities that have helped him in his career and close them off for people who are starting out on their careers now. As I have said, however, we must of course ensure that protections are in place.

  • It is not just my constituents who are part of the gig economy who do not have security. Many of my constituents have jobs in which they work 15 hours a week. They are pleased and proud to be working, but when they want full-time employment they instead see more people in the same organisations being given part-time hours. When will the Government get to grips with that element of the economy, and ensure that all those workers have a fair deal and the chance to work the full-time hours that they want so much?

  • The whole basis of the report is good work and the aspiration of good work for all, including, I believe, the constituents to whom the hon. Lady refers, but let me reassure her. Two years ago, the Office for National Statistics labour force survey found that nearly 70% of people on zero-hours contracts were content with the hours that they were working. However, that does mean that a third want more hours, which is a finding that we must embrace in the context of some of the changes that Matthew Taylor is recommending to help to achieve the good work and the working hours that the hon. Lady’s constituents want.

  • I, too, welcome the report. Does my hon. Friend agree that flexibility in the labour market benefits workers and employers equally?

  • My hon. Friend asks me a difficult question. I do believe—Matthew Taylor’s report bears this out—that flexibility benefits employers and employees, but I am afraid that the evidence given to the inquiry suggested that in too many cases that flexibility is a one-way street, as I said earlier. We must deal with the problem of people who are really at risk and whose employment position is far too insecure.

  • I welcome the Minister’s commitment to the Government’s upholding of workers’ rights, but as part of the Government’s response to the report, will she consider enabling workers to uphold their own rights? Will she look again at the fees for employment tribunals, which have led to a 70% reduction in cases brought by single claimants, such as those working in the gig economy, against their employers?

  • The hon. Lady makes an important point, but it is really a matter for the Ministry of Justice. Matthew Taylor has not actually recommended that we get rid of fees for employment tribunals, and I think we should recognise the positive aspect: the upsurge in the number of employment disputes that have been settled through mediation. However, I will continue to look at the issue that the hon. Lady raises.

  • The report praises and supports flexibility in the labour market, where individuals want it. Does my hon. Friend agree that it may be especially, but not exclusively, beneficial to students and young people?

  • I do agree with my hon. Friend. The figures suggest that nearly 20% of people on zero-hours contracts are students. Such flexibility also benefits many people who have parenting or caring responsibilities and do not want to work full-time. We certainly do not want to end that flexibility but, as I have said, we do want to improve protection.

  • The gig economy brings insecure work. Insecure work demands new rights, but those rights will be worthless unless the Government are prepared to put more resources into enforcement, regulation and inspection. Will the Minister commit herself to providing those additional resources when implementing the Taylor review?

  • I very much agree with the right hon. Gentleman that enforcement is crucial. As I said, we have doubled the resources available to HMRC for enforcing the minimum wage and they will continue to rise throughout this Parliament. We have also strengthened the powers of the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, and the recently appointed director of labour market enforcement has been tasked with bringing the work of the three major enforcement bodies together to understand the extent of the abuse and to recommend ways of giving those agencies the resources that will enable them to deal with it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be pleased with the outcome, in due course.

  • I welcome the report and my hon. Friend’s statement. Does she agree that not only is it absolutely right for us to ensure that workers are treated fairly, but it is good for businesses too, because they will have a more engaged and therefore more productive workforce?

  • I heartily agree. This is all about improving work so that we have good work, with people who are able to grow in their careers, and a system in which those who are low-paid to start with need not be low-paid forever but can aspire to a better future. That will benefit British productivity and, as my hon. Friend suggests, improve the competitiveness of British companies.

  • Vital protection for all workers is provided by trade union membership and by trade union recognition. Since my time at the TUC more than 40 years ago, trade union membership in Britain has halved, while workers’ and trade union rights have been undermined by Tory legislation. When will the Government reverse that legislation?

  • The Government cannot mandate people to join trade unions. Trade unions are still an important force for the protection of workers’ rights among the sectors of the economy in which they are still dominant, and I commend them for their work.

  • If one talks to drivers for Uber or cleaners using platforms such as Hassle, they will largely acknowledge the benefits of flexibility to them. To coin a phrase, would it not be morally unacceptable to misread the 21st-century labour market and construct a set of rules that forced those people out of work, rather than allowing them to stay in it?

  • My hon. Friend will no doubt be pleased that Matthew Taylor very much agrees with his thesis.

  • Over 1 million workers are being exploited by sham umbrella companies and bogus self-employment. Changes to tax policy are what is needed to tackle that, but the Government prohibited Matthew Taylor from making any firm recommendations on changing tax policy, so how seriously can we take the Minister’s comments today, and when on earth are the Government going to eventually address these tax anomalies?

  • I assure the hon. Lady that no bar was put in front of Matthew Taylor; he was able to investigate as freely and as fairly as he saw fit. It is up to the Treasury to assess the tax situation and any potential loss of revenue, which of course arises due to bogus self-employment.

  • To contrast the previous question, will my hon. Friend join me in recognising one of the key findings of the review: thanks to the Government’s tax policies, once tax levels and tax credits are taken into account, average take-home pay for families with at least one member in full-time employment is higher in the UK than in any other G7 country?

  • I commend my hon. Friend for bringing that important fact to the notice of the House.

  • I am pleased to hear the Minister promoting this Marxist revolution that we are now living through, as the means of production are increasingly in the hands of the workers. Further to what she has just said, does she agree that the answer to some of the challenges is not just better regulations, but helping people to organise? If so, will she meet me, the Community trade union, the co-op movement and Indycube to discuss our work helping the self-employed to organise and unionise?

  • I am aware of the independent union of self-employed workers; it has been a force and has contributed to the inquiry. However, I will be only too pleased to meet the hon. Lady and her Community organisers as part of my consultation.

  • There is a marked difference between people who set up a business and take risks, including the risk of self-employment, and a few unscrupulous employers who force workers to go self-employed. In response to this excellent report, what will my hon. Friend do to ensure that people who are genuinely self-employed continue to receive benefits, but the unscrupulous employers do not?

  • My hon. Friend makes a good point. We do not want to stand in the way of the incentives for people who genuinely take a risk by starting a business. They are the majority, and we do not want to do anything that upsets that balance. At the same time, as my hon. Friend will realise, we need to end the scourge of fake self-employment.

  • Disappointingly, the report does not go far enough on the issue of zero-hours contracts. The Labour Welsh Government have failed to support the prohibition of zero-hours contracts in devolved areas on seven occasions. Is it not the case that vulnerable workers in Wales are being let down by both the Tories and the Labour party?

  • As I have said, many individuals want to work in the flexible way that is afforded by zero-hours contracts, and almost 70% of people on those contracts are happy with their hours. As I have also said, we must take steps to promote the value of good work as an opportunity for the third who are not, whether they are in Wales or the rest of the United Kingdom.

  • The Minister tells us that 20% of such people are students and that 70% are satisfied. Can she complete the hat-trick by telling us what the mean weekly earnings for someone on a zero-hours contract actually are?

  • I am afraid I will have to write to my right hon. Friend with that answer.

  • Put a copy in the Library; I am sure it will be of educational value to all of us.

  • Matthew Taylor writes in his report:

    “We must equip our children and young people to enter the labour market successfully, but Government, employers and individuals also need to make sure everyone is best placed to thrive throughout what might be a working life spanning 50 years or more.”

    How do the Government square that with the previous Prime Minister’s policy of stopping compulsory work experience in schools, which in its first year led to a drop of 60,000 work experience placements in our schools across the country? Will she look at that again?

  • That is a matter for the Department for Education. I agree that work experience is very important to young people and I am sure the Secretary of State will look favourably on that. My Department is looking to boost opportunities for lifelong learning to engender a culture in which people can progress in their careers.

  • Before I became a Member of Parliament, I was self-employed for almost 30 years. I was also the self-employment ambassador to the previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, and I worked with Matthew Taylor on this report. I found him to be extremely non-partisan and an absolute gentleman. May I urge my hon. Friend to accept the proposed measures for the self-employed, especially the maternity and paternity benefits?

  • I will certainly take on board my hon. Friend’s views, which are based on many years’ experience. I thank him for his contribution to the report.

  • We have flexibility in the labour market on one side of the coin, but insecurity for people in employment on the other. There has been criticism, for instance from Unite the union this morning, that insecurity is to be the new norm, and we want to avoid that. Will the Minister think about reversing the coalition’s decision to extend from one year to two the protection of employment threshold?

  • I do not accept the premise that insecurity is the new norm. One of the purposes of this report was to look closely at the extent of insecurity and to produce recommendations on how that might be mitigated when it is not desired by the workers. I will consider the question that the hon. Gentleman raises, but it was not addressed in this report.

  • Speaking at the launch this morning, Mr Taylor suggested that traditional cash-economy workers such as window cleaners could use an app to collect money and declare directly to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, so why does Uber, which has the most cutting-edge, fully automated app, not seem to declare the payments it makes to drivers directly to HMRC or to collect the national insurance numbers of drivers? Will the Minister strongly suggest that it does so?

  • The app was one of the most interesting suggestions. There might be limitations to the apps currently available, but in no way was Matthew Taylor advocating that these should be mandatory. They should, however, be available in a more sophisticated form than at present.

  • As the Government look towards this gig economy, will they consider Matthew Taylor’s remarks that:

    “Our welfare system is a cruel mess”?

    On universal credit, he said that

    “no one outside Government thinks it will make the system fairer…There is a better way. A universal basic income…can improve incentives and rewards for work, increase human freedom and dignity”.

    Will the Government consider his conclusions?

  • That matter has not been addressed by the report. I urge the hon. Gentleman to address his questions to Work and Pensions Ministers.

  • Matthew Taylor urges the Government to consider reducing tribunal fees. May I urge the Minister to go further, particularly in relation to pregnancy discrimination? Get on with abolishing them, and extend the period during which a case can be brought before a tribunal, because a period of pregnancy and maternity is a busy time when people are unlikely to be thinking about a court case.

  • I agree with the hon. Lady’s concluding remarks and hope she will input her views as part of the consultation.

  • The Minister has twice referred to the fact that flexibility seems to work only one way—to the benefit of the employer. Does that flexibility include her Government’s failure to prosecute a single employer in Wales last year for flouting the minimum wage rules?

  • To correct the record, I was not saying that flexibility was always a one-way street in favour of the employer; I said that this was, in exceptional cases, a real problem that needs addressing, but that is not necessarily the norm. In response to the other matters the hon. Lady has raised, I urge her to contribute her views as we go through the consultation.

  • When the Minister is considering how to respond to the review, will she talk to her colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about the youth full-time social action review, which is considering the question of long-time volunteering? I realise that these are slightly different issues, but there is still a considerable overlap. The question of safeguards and protections is the same in some cases, so it seems sensible to wrap the two together.

  • The hon. Gentleman makes good points about volunteering and the framework that governs it, and I hope that he will make them during our consultation.

  • I want to ask the Minister two quick questions. First, on the extension of workforce protections, will that include secondary contractors? For instance, if one person in a team of three or four is the main contractor, will dependent contractor status be extended to other people in the team? Secondly, while being a dependent contractor might provide a minor uplift for people who are self-employed, does the Minister agree that some employers will see this as an opportunity to downgrade people with employment protection to the status of dependent contractor against their will?

  • The hon. Gentleman raises a number of issues. There is no intention to downgrade anybody’s rights. We want to be in a position to safeguard people’s rights and, when possible, improve them—we certainly do not want to downgrade them. I am sure that he will put his detailed observations into our consultation.

  • This Government continue to justify the existence of zero-hours contracts on the basis of flexibility, but the problems could largely be addressed if flexible working could be properly expanded and given a framework so that we knew exactly what it meant. Will the Government use this opportunity to properly expand flexible working and explain what it actually means?

  • I cannot accept the premise behind the hon. Gentleman’s question. We are not seeking to end zero-hours contracts, because too many people want them and the flexibility associated with them, but we are seeking to root out abuse where it exists.

  • The Taylor review recommends that the Government should make it easier for people in flexible arrangements to take their holiday entitlement. In the past, the Minister has struggled to explain the Government’s powers in this area. Will she tell us what powers currently exist to enforce the payment of holiday pay and, with the summer fast approaching, will she act on the Taylor report’s recommendations swiftly?

  • I can reassure the hon. Lady that Matthew Taylor has recommended that we take the issue of holiday pay seriously and ensure that it applies to all workers who are entitled to it. The Treasury will be taking forward those suggestions.

  • The Minister is right to say that the transfer of risk is at the heart of the problem. Drivers at AO World in my constituency are classified as self-employed but treated as employees without rights. Is there anything in the Taylor report that would end the practice of fining drivers every time there is an accident?

  • Perhaps the hon. Lady would like to write to me with more details because this is the first time I have heard of that particular practice. It certainly sounds wrong, and I would be delighted to consider it further within the powers that currently exist.

  • Page 11 of Mr Taylor’s report says:

    “we have to examine why, with employment levels at record highs, a significant number of people living in poverty are in work.”

    For as long as I have been here, when Members have asked questions about poverty, it has been the Government’s practice to respond with statistics about employment and unemployment. Will they now finally accept that such a thing as in-work poverty not only exists, but is a brutal fact of life for millions of people on these islands?

  • We have always been absolutely committed to reducing poverty, wherever it exists. The national living wage has gone a long way towards providing workers with a framework so that they need not sink into poverty, and I urge the hon. Gentleman to consider that fact further.

  • As someone who has done a few gigs in his time, may I urge the Minister to reject the execrable think-tankery jargon of the term “dependent contractor”? Work is work, and workers are workers. “Dependent contractors of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains,” is not going to change anything.

  • Order. For those new Members of the House who are not aware of the musical distinction of the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), I can inform them that he is an illustrious member of the parliamentary rock band, MP4. If colleagues have not yet heard the band, they have not fully lived. I hope that they will hear the band in due course, preferably in Speaker’s House, where it has played before and will play again.

  • The hon. Gentleman refers to the term “dependent contractor”. This recommendation was designed to improve clarity and to increase the chances of workers getting the rights to which they are entitled, but it is just that: a recommendation. He is free to lobby against our acceptance of it during the course of our consultation.

  • I welcome the report’s acknowledgement that employment tribunal fees are a barrier to justice. The recommendation of fee-free tribunals to establish employment status is positive, but what can be done to ensure the quality of representation at the tribunals? What protection will there be to prevent the detrimental treatment of someone bringing a claim? Is it also the case that, once someone’s status has been determined, a fee will still have to be paid?

  • One of Matthew Taylor’s recommendations is that before an employee takes a case to an employment tribunal, they should receive firm advice on what their status is in reality. That would end a huge amount of uncertainty and unnecessary expense. We will consider that and all the other recommendations in this excellent report, which I commend to the House. I found much of it inspiring, and I hope that we can all work together to improve the quality of work in this country, as well as the number of jobs.

  • Points of Order

  • On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would it be in order for a Minister to attend the House and make a statement on why there is no one authority with responsibility for the safety of rivers and canals? Last night, my 12-year-old constituent Owen Jenkins drowned at Beeston weir. It appears that he went into the River Trent to assist another youngster who had got into difficulty in the water. This seems to have been an act of great courage by a remarkable young man, and I am sure that the whole House will join me in sending our heartfelt condolences to his family, his friends and all the other pupils at Chilwell School. Summer is here and the schools are now breaking up for the holidays. Our rivers, canals, quarries, ponds and lakes are potentially dangerous places, especially for children and youngsters, yet there is no one authority that has responsibility for safety in those areas. I think that a Minister should come along to the House and explain how we can ensure that all those places are safe for all of us, and especially for young people.

  • I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her point of order, and for her courtesy in giving me notice of her intention to raise it. She has paid warm and eloquent tribute to young Owen Jenkins, and I am sure she speaks for all of us in saying that we send our deepest condolences to all his friends and family. We shall remember the remarkable courage that he showed. I am not aware of the intention on the part of any Minister to come to the House to make a statement on this matter, but the right hon. Lady asked whether it would be in order for a Minister to do so. It certainly would, and we still have several sitting days before the recess. If a Minister were to come to the House to make a statement on that matter, to explain the delineation of functions and the allocation of responsibilities and to answer questions about this, that would be very well received by the House and, I dare say, by the family of young Owen Jenkins.

  • On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand that the Prime Minister has announced that there is to be a judge-led public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal. Would it not have been better if, just for once, such an announcement could have been made to hon. Members in this House?

  • The short answer is that it is better if key announcements of policy or other Government intent are communicated first to the House when the House is in session. I have been attending to my duties in the Chair, so I am unaware of the announcement. It may well be that it will be warmly welcomed, and I do not cavil at that, but the hon. Gentleman asked me a specific question, to which I have given him a specific answer.

    Yesterday, when the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) sought leave to secure an emergency debate on a specific and important matter, namely her sense of the need for a full public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal, there had obviously been no such announcement. I judge that it was indeed a proper matter to be debated under the terms of Standing Order No. 24. Notwithstanding any announcement outside of the House, an indication of parliamentary opinion on the subject remains extremely germane and arguably just as urgent. I agreed to it yesterday but, more particularly, the House gave its approval to the hon. Lady to pursue this matter, and I felt and still feel that it warranted and warrants up to three hours of debate today. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), but the announcement certainly does not in any way dissuade us from a proper and comprehensive focus on this matter now.

  • Contaminated Blood

    Emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

  • I beg to move,

    That this House has considered the need for an independent public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal.

    May I first thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing this emergency debate? This is the first such debate on the contaminated blood scandal, and it arises, as you know, after further evidence of criminal actions was produced by the right hon. Andy Burnham and after a joint letter calling for a Hillsborough-style inquiry from all six non-Government Westminster party leaders. After the announcement this lunchtime from Downing Street of a full inquiry into the scandal, emergency debates may become an even more popular route to get the Government to listen and act.

    In the light of the announcement, I want to acknowledge all the people who have been involved in getting us to this point. I will start by thanking my constituent Glenn Wilkinson for his persistence and dogged determination when he came to see me in 2010 to tell me his story. I have kept him at the centre of whatever I have attempted to do on this issue. I also thank the many individuals and campaign groups who have fought for years to get to this point: the Manor House group, the Contaminated Blood Campaign, and Tainted Blood. I thank the Haemophilia Society, in particular Liz Carroll, its chief executive, and Jefferson Courtney, the policy and public affairs manager. Over 2,400 individuals have tragically lost their lives. They are not here to see this announcement, but their voices live on through their family members, who have never given up fighting for them. The campaign, which has run for many years, has at times had the great benefit of brilliant investigative journalists, including Caroline Wheeler of The Sunday Times, who was formerly a correspondent on the Hull Daily Mail, and the many researchers and journalists who worked on the BBC “Panorama” documentary on the disaster from just a few months ago. I know that the Daily Mail is not a favourite of yours, Mr Speaker, but it also ran a good story on its front page last week.

    I thank the 111 parliamentarians who are members of the all-party parliamentary group on haemophilia and contaminated blood, particularly my co-chair the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), the previous chair Jason McCartney, who is no longer a Member, Margaret Ritchie and Mark Durkan, who are also no longer Members but were vocal in the campaign, and of course the right hon. Andy Burnham, who set out clearly in his valedictory speech why this was unfinished business and why we needed a public inquiry. Finally, I thank the late right hon. Paul Goggins, who was a huge inspiration in this cause.

  • My hon. Friend is completely right to thank all those people, but there is one person missing from that list: herself. The whole House should thank her for her tireless work over the past seven years on this absolutely brilliant campaign. This shows how Parliament should work: a constituent raised the issue with her; she campaigned on it non-stop; she was not fobbed off; she pursued it doggedly; and she has played a huge role in bringing us to this point. Last night, I had a load of emails from constituents who have been affected by this scandal, and I want to say how grateful they are to my hon. Friend for the work that she has done.

  • I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments, but this is down to the combined effort of so many people over so many years.

  • I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who has been dogged in her determination and in not giving up. My constituent David Thomas came to see me in similar circumstances, as many constituents have done with Members on both sides of the House, but if he had not done so I would not even have been aware of the scandal, let alone of the need to deal with it so fully. Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the national and regional groups, such as Haemophilia Wales, who have done so much to stand up for those affected in particular locations? Their work has highlighted that this was a legacy issue from the UK Department of Health and that complications relating to the devolved status of health services across the UK need to be addressed in the inquiry.

  • My hon. Friend makes that point well.

    I want to comment on how we handle disasters and on the best way forward for a Hillsborough-style inquiry established by the Government.

  • I add my congratulations to the hon. Lady on her brilliant leadership on this issue. While the announcement is incredibly welcome news, does she agree that there is an urgency here, because the people who continue to suffer need help now? There is a danger of the process going on for years and leaving them still waiting for support.

  • The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The timetabling of any inquiry needs to be set out clearly, and I hope that the Minister may be able to help us with that.

  • I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way on that point, and I congratulate her and Andy Burnham, because this issue has been going on for a very long time. Has she had any indication from No. 10 Downing Street about the form of the inquiry? Some of my constituents have similar problems to her constituents, so can she give us any clarification?

  • Just like every other Member, I have only seen what is out in the media, and I understand that there will be a consultation on the form of the inquiry. I am sure that the Minister will be able to help us in his contribution.

  • I join in the tributes to the hon. Lady and the all-party group, of which I have been a member, because this is an example of how Parliament can work well. There is a family in Letchworth who said to me:

    “As a family, we have suffered years of misery because of this scandal.”

    Does the hon. Lady agree that it is right to consult the victims and their families on the form of the inquiry?

  • Absolutely. The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes a good point and I will come on to that.

    I do not need to remind the House of the damage that public disasters do to all those who are affected, as we know from the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989 and, more recently, the appalling fire at Grenfell Tower. Every public disaster of this kind is different: their causes differ; the victims suffer in different ways; and the measures necessary to support those affected, and their families, also differ. However, every victim has a fundamental right to one thing: answers. They deserve to be told what went wrong, why it went wrong, and who is responsible for what happened. The story of the injustice they have suffered needs to be set out and told to the wider public. Their voices need to be heard. Apologies, compensation and other forms of support are essential, but if their right to answers is not also satisfied, they will be denied true and meaningful justice.

  • My hon. Friend is making a powerful case, and I thank her for all her work. As she said at the beginning, many, many victims have died. Their families are still here and are still grieving, and they need answers as much as the victims.

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This tragedy has taken the life of more than 2,400 people with haemophilia, infected mainly through blood factor concentrates. Many others, without bleeding disorders, infected through blood transfusions and other means have also lost their lives. Thousands more have been left devastated. The survivors have been left to live with a combination of HIV, hepatitis C and a range of other viruses.

    My constituent Glen Wilkinson is one such individual. He has haemophilia and was infected with hepatitis C when he was just 19 during a routine tooth operation. Glen is one of thousands of people who have fallen victim to the worst treatment disaster in the history of our NHS, and one of the worst peacetime disasters ever to take place in this country. Indeed, each of the 15 or so non-terrorist related public disasters I have looked at—ranging from the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985 to the Clapham Junction crash in 1988, the Marchioness disaster and, of course, Hillsborough—was a tragic event, and I do not wish to detract from the magnitude of those events, but the House should note that all those disasters led to a public inquiry.

    Hon. Members and their affected constituents are entitled to ask why the same has not happened with contaminated blood. Had more than 2,400 people died over the course of one day or one year, it would be inconceivable for any Government to refuse calls for a public inquiry, yet the devastation caused by the contaminated blood scandal has been spread not over days or years but over several decades.

    We must also bear in mind the profound effect this scandal has had on one community, those with bleeding disorders, many of whom were provided with contaminated blood factor concentrates sourced from profit-making American firms. Virtually everyone who had haemophilia at the time has been infected.

    Hon. Members will appreciate that the impact can be devastating when friends and close-knit communities are hit by a collective tragedy. Consider, for example, the Treloar school for disabled children, a special school with a large number of pupils with haemophilia: 72 of its pupils have died because of this scandal. Many were forced to be silent to the suffering, either for fear of the stigma of having HIV, hepatitis C or other viruses, or because they were not even aware that they had those conditions. Important though that distinction is, it does not excuse the fact that successive Governments of all colours have sidestepped the issue for too long.

    Internationally, an investigation saw the imprisonment of the former head of France’s blood transfusion service and his deputy, and a former French Health Minister was found guilty of manslaughter. In Japan, three company executives were imprisoned and an official was convicted on negligence charges. In the United States, the private companies involved in this tragedy paid out millions in out-of-court settlements across the world.

    But nothing of that kind has happened in the UK. In 1991, in response to the threat of court cases, the Government set up an ex gratia payments scheme. There was no implication of liability, no use of the word “compensation” and waivers renouncing the individual’s right to the take further legal action had to be signed before they could obtain small sums of money.

  • A constituent, who does not wish to be named, wants us to include the remit of the Skipton Fund in this review. She, and many others, feel that the remit was wrongly drawn up, and that she and others have been denied the justice they should have had.

  • The hon. Lady makes an important point.

  • I congratulate my hon. Friend on her work on this issue. I welcome the fact that there will be a public inquiry, eventually and at last. Does she agree that that public inquiry should address why the UK was the last country in the western world to introduce a test for hepatitis C, why vital documents were destroyed by the Department of Health and why the UK took 13 years to be self-sufficient in blood products, when it took Ireland only five years?

  • Those are important questions for any inquiry to address.

    On today’s announcement, the Westminster leaders’ joint letter of 7 July provided a blueprint for how such an inquiry should be conducted. First, as with Hillsborough, there should be a commitment to secure full public disclosure of details related to this tragedy, through a process managed by the affected community. There should be a mechanism to ensure all public bodies involved in the scandal are compelled to give oral and written evidence to the inquiry. There need to be assurances that the inquiry will cover the role of American firms in providing blood factor concentrates to people with haemophilia. There should also be an investigation not just of the run-up to the scandal but of its aftermath. Finally, the inquiry has to address the allegations of criminal conduct. As I said earlier, I hope the Minister will also be able to help us with a timetable for the inquiry, as those affected have waited so long to get to this point.

  • I pay tribute to the hon. Lady’s chairpersonship of the all-party parliamentary group. My constituent Cathy Young is grateful to her and to other MPs, because those affected would have given up if not for Members of Parliament pursuing this issue. Cathy Young now has access to her husband’s health records, which she describes as a fairy tale. Does the hon. Lady agree that those affected by this scandal, if they have not already done so, should get, and have a look at, their family health records?

  • The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, and I certainly agree.

  • I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for her outstanding leadership on this important issue. My constituent Alex Smith has been affected by contaminated blood. A great deal has been said about the Government response and the potential criminal cover-up, but there is also the immoral way in which the victims have been treated and the payments they receive. Many are living in absolute destitution and poverty as a result of Government penny-pinching, which should form part of the review.

  • My hon. Friend is correct. We need to look carefully at the support that has been provided for this group, and at what should be provided in the future.

  • I add my thanks, on behalf of my constituent Haydn Lewis and his family. Haydn and his brother have died, and other members of their family have been affected. Does my hon. Friend agree that we should learn from the lessons of the thalidomide inquiry and compensation fund to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes that were made on thalidomide?

  • That is an excellent point, and it needs to be considered.

  • Will the hon. Lady give way?

  • I will give way one last time.

  • I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I pay tribute to her on behalf of my constituent Jane Jones, whose family have had to deal with great privation for many years because of the scandal. In a written answer to the Welsh Assembly on 27 March there was confirmation that the payments continue to be made on an ex gratia basis, but with no liability being accepted. The answer was in Welsh, but it confirms that the payment of £10,000 to a partner or widow continues on an ex gratia basis.

  • That goes to the heart of it. There has never been any finding of liability, which has resulted in very low payments being made on a support basis, rather than on a compensatory basis.

    I strongly believe, and I think the majority of the APPG believe, that a Hillsborough-style inquiry is the best way forward in this case, putting those affected at the heart of whatever is created and set up. They should be given the opportunity to have an input into the terms of reference. They should be able to look at people being considered as the chairperson or panel members of the inquiry, which has to have the support and confidence of all those affected. That is why the Hillsborough inquiry seemed to work effectively. In the case of Hillsborough, this was known as “Families First”, and I hope that approach might be able to continue in this inquiry as it is set up. All those affected need to be treated with the utmost respect and reverence, and to be fully consulted; any information that becomes available should first go to them.

    In the remaining few minutes, I wish to talk about the four questions that I think the inquiry needs to look at. Andy Burnham set out in his speech why an inquiry was necessary, and of course he was one of two former Health Secretaries, the other being Lord Owen, who had raised serious concerns about the scandal. We know that the “Panorama” programme and the Daily Mail article followed. Given what Andy Burnham said and all the developments in the past few months, serious questions still need to be addressed by a public inquiry. First, why did the Government not act sooner to protect blood supplies once the risks became known? And why were we so reliant on American commercial products for haemophilia patients?

    The UK was not self-sufficient in blood supplies, so profit-making American companies played a considerable role in supplying factor concentrates to haemophilia patients. That blood was sourced from much riskier patients, including prison inmates, who were much more likely to have infections and had a financial incentive to be less than honest about their risks of infection. The dangers of American products were discussed in public not from the 1990s, nor the 1980s, but from 1970. As the Daily Mail reported last week, files now suggest that at least as early as 1980 officials had even put an estimate on the number of haemophilia patients being infected from these products with what we now know to be hepatitis C. They put the figure at 50 a year, yet it was not until 1986 that they took any action to address that.

    If the whole of the UK had been self-sufficient in blood supplies, fewer haemophilia patients would have been infected. We know that, because Scotland had higher levels of self-sufficiency than England. As the BBC “Panorama” programme outlined, that meant that haemophiliacs in England were twice as likely to be infected with HIV as those in Scotland. Even in the mid-1980s, when the dangers of hepatitis C and HIV became known, it appears we could have acted sooner to remove risky blood products. And when the United States started screening its commercial products from March 1983, we carried on using non-screened American supplies that we had purchased before then; how can that possibly be justified?

    My second question for the inquiry is: why were patients kept in the dark and not told of the risks once they became known? There are many aspects to this controversy that I know other hon. Members may wish to touch on, but I want to draw the House’s attention to developments in 1983, in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, when there was still uncertainty over whether AIDS was a blood-borne disease.

    In November 1983, the then Health Minister, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), told Parliament that there was

    “no conclusive evidence that…AIDS is transmitted by blood products.”—[Official Report, 14 November 1983; Vol. 48, c. 327-8W.]

    Yet earlier that same year his Department was preparing internal documents that said the opposite: in August 1983, that same Department was telling practising homosexuals and drug users not to give blood because of the risk of transmitting AIDS; in the summer of 1983, the Department was preparing a blood donor leaflet that said AIDS was “almost certainly” transmitted by blood and blood products; in July 1983, the UK Haemophilia Centre Doctors’ Organisation said that young children with haemophilia should receive a less risky form of blood product due to the dangers of AIDS; and between March and May 1983, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service prepared a leaflet for blood donors, which included “haemophiliacs” and “recipients of blood transfusion” on a list of people who could get AIDS, and asked those same individuals not to give blood. Of course, the Scottish Penrose inquiry itself acknowledged that in adopting its position in November 1983, the then Government relied on

    “a highly nuanced use of language.”

    My third question is: why were some people tested for viruses without their knowledge and only told of the results many years later? There are many such cases of this happening, but I will make reference to just one: Jonathan Evans first tested positive for HIV in 1984 yet was not told of this until seven months later, in mid-1985. That posed a huge health risk to his wider family, and the history of this scandal is full of cases of spouses infecting each other. Tragically, the virus took his life. His son, Jason, was just four years old when his father died. He is still campaigning for justice for his father, and he has been instrumental in generating recent news coverage in the Daily Mail article and elsewhere.

    Fourthly, there are allegations of a criminal cover-up, on an industrial scale, from the highest ranks of government downwards. At every stage of this scandal, there are concerns that officials knew more than they were letting on. Almost everyone affected by the scandal has encountered issues with lost medical records. Others have recovered their files, only to find that any mention of the connection with contaminated blood has been removed. Some individuals today are unable to access financial support via the Skipton Fund because of what has happened to their medical records. These cases of lost records also extend to the highest level of government. During the Archer inquiry, Lord Owen requested his departmental papers from the time when he was a Health Minister in the 1970s. He was told they had been destroyed

    “under the 10-year rule”,

    even though there is no evidence of the existence of such a rule.

    Finally, when people were forced to sign waivers in 1991, as I mentioned earlier in my speech, they were asked to commit to bringing no further hepatitis C litigation as well as HIV litigation. These individuals did not yet know they had hepatitis C, as the disease has a long incubation period. It seems that the inescapable conclusion is that departmental officials knew more than they were willing to disclose.

    In conclusion, earlier this week the Prime Minister expressed her intention to work more with other party leaders to act in the best interests of this country. She has shown a laudable commitment to that with respect to other public disasters, including the child abuse inquiry and the Hillsborough disaster. Alongside the many thousands of people who have campaigned for justice for so long, I want to personally thank her for showing that same commitment with respect to the contaminated blood tragedy.

    There are still questions to be answered on the detail of an inquiry. In welcoming this announcement, we must also be mindful of those who will never see its results: the more than 2,400 people who have tragically lost their lives. Many never even knew of the true scale of the scandal that was impacting on them. Those infected, and their families, will be waiting anxiously to know that the Prime Minister’s announcement will truly give them the justice they have so long been denied. But today the Prime Minister has earned a place in history as someone who has listened to an issue that her predecessors had ignored, and put party politics aside in the name of giving people the answers that are their basic right. For that, she has my gratitude.

  • Order. Just before I call the first speaker from the Back Benches, I should say that at this stage I have not imposed any formal time limit, but a substantial number of people wish to contribute. Therefore, I know that the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) will exercise a magnificent self-denying ordinance in the length of his oration.

  • On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

  • Do we really have to have it? I know what I am doing and am perfectly capable of handling the matter. If it is about the order of speeches—

  • It is the Minister—

  • No, no. I do not need to be advised by the right hon. Gentleman on the handling of the debate. Let me just say that in so far as this was not clear, it was as a result of a failure of communication between the two Front-Bench teams. These matters should be sorted out between the Government and the Opposition, not with people yapping at each other across the Floor of the House or very close to the Speaker’s Chair. The Speaker is happy to give effect to what the two sides of the House want, within reason, but that was not made easy on this occasion, and I am seeking to address the matter by consensus. I know that the right hon. Gentleman means well and his offer of assistance is greatly appreciated, but I do not need to take him up on it on this occasion.

  • I am very grateful to you, Mr Speaker. May I join colleagues in paying tribute to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) and the work she has done in leading the all-party group, as well to my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), who has been a joint chairman of that group?

    I have been working with the victims in my constituency since 2011—for the past six years—and I consider myself a new boy when it comes to this particular tragedy and scandal. My right hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) has spent many hours working tirelessly on behalf of those of his constituents who are victims. I pay tribute to him; I know he wanted to take part in the debate but could not because of Government business.

    I thank the Prime Minister for listening to the victims of this extraordinary tragedy and to colleagues in the House, and announcing the inquiry. I acknowledge the Minister’s saying to colleagues that the Government are in listening mode on the inquiry’s terms of reference and that they will put the victims at its heart. That is what the victims would expect, and they will be grateful for it.

    Many victims—this is certainly true of my constituent Clare Walton—initially did not want an inquiry; they wanted a settlement instead. I pay tribute to Andy Burnham for his work on this issue, as well as to the journalists the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North cited. The new evidence that was uncovered led Clare Walton to change her view, and she is now very much supportive of and looking forward to engaging with the inquiry.

    It is important that the inquiry looks into the subsequent treatment of victims and holds the relevant bodies to account. On Clare Walton’s behalf, I have been attempting to communicate with the Macfarlane Trust, which was one of the five charities set up to help the victims. I say “help,” but I have to tell the Minister that in my experience the Macfarlane Trust has done anything but help my constituent. It has behaved in an utterly despicable way. It refuses to meet my constituent or me—I have requested meetings for the past six years, but they always come back with a reason why they cannot meet.

    The trustees of the Macfarlane Trust have bullied my constituent and “fed her with scraps”—those are her words—while at the same time having a charge over her property for all this time and making a profit on it. The trust refuses to discuss the future of the charge on her property. The scheme administrator will soon be changed to the NHS business advisory service, so she wants to know what will happen when that change takes place. I hope the Government will take some of these issues away and respond more fully at the appropriate time. The Macfarlane Trust says that it cannot give any more information until it has clarity from the Department of Health about transitional arrangements; Clare really wants that clarity. I hope the Minister will intimate, as his predecessor did, that the Macfarlane Trust is not much longer for this world. I have struggled even to speak to the trust on the phone.

    Another of my constituents, Adrian Melson, is particularly concerned about the discretionary payments on which many victims rely. I hope that as the Minister begins to look at the evidence before him he will look closely at making sure that, if discretionary payments have become something much more permanent, they are recognised as such and not treated as discretionary. Under the previous Prime Minister, whom I commend for coming out and wanting to resolve this issue, we promised our constituents that no victim would suffer financially under any compensation structure we put in place.

    I shall take Mr Speaker’s eloquent words on board and end there, other than to say that this is not a party political issue: successive Governments have failed the victims. I hope we can now come together and have this inquiry, but we must make sure that there is a clear timeline and a deadline.

  • I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on her leadership on this issue. On the hon. Gentleman’s point about coming together, it is important for this issue to be considered at a UK level, because it predates devolution. It is important that the Minister—I thought he was going to speak second in the debate—works with the devolved Administrations and that any future compensation is provided at a UK level so that there are no second-class citizens in the United Kingdom.

  • I think the victims who looked at the Scottish settlement have taken that point on board—that is certainly the case with Adrian Melson—and I am sure that the Government listened to the hon. Gentleman’s view. Let us come together and provide a clear timeline for when the victims can get not only justice but compensation.

  • Order. I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that. Just before more Opposition Members are minded to grumble about the fact that the Minister has not yet spoken, and that he is not necessarily next, I should point out that I was in receipt of representations from Opposition Front Benchers on this matter. Some communication between Members on the Opposition Front Bench and Back Benches would be greatly advantageous to the conduct of our proceedings. Before I call the shadow Minister for public health, the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), may I gently implore her to speak for no more than 10 minutes, and preferably for fewer, because there are a lot of Members who wish to contribute? After the hon. Lady, the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne), will helpfully set out the Government’s position. We will then open up to a wider debate. I will not promise complete satisfaction, because that is without precedent in the House, but I will try to ensure that there are as many happy Members as possible.

  • Thank you for your guidance, Mr Speaker.

    First and foremost, thanks must go to my outstanding hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), who has so valiantly campaigned on this issue for numerous years now. Without her and the dedicated resolve of her and all those she cited who have been involved in this campaign, we would not be where we are today. Thanks must also go to the former Member for Leigh, Andy Burnham, for the debate he led at the end of the previous Parliament, for which I had the honour of being present. He helped to add expediency to this issue with his commitment to go to the police with the evidence he has if the Government failed to come forward with an inquiry to seek justice for those who have been neglected

    For too long, the contaminated blood community have been simply failed by their Government and ignored by those who have let the demands of those affected fall on deaf ears, leaving the community without justice. It is very welcome—as we have heard in the news in the past hour and a half or so—that an inquiry may finally be happening, and I look forward to hearing further details from the Minister when he responds. I am grateful that he and you, Mr Speaker, have allowed me to speak first so that he can answer the questions I pose. This is a rather unusual format, and I had no prior knowledge that it was going to be changed. I hope that other Members who speak and pose questions will get a response from the Minister; I do not know whether he will get two bites at the cherry or will have to intervene to answer other Members’ questions.

    This emergency debate is timely and allows the House to have its voice heard fully, which is right after the decades of neglect the contaminated blood community has faced. At any point prior to 12.30 pm, when the announcement was made in the news, the Minister could have come forward and made a statement. That would have saved my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North from having to apply for an emergency debate yesterday. It feels like the order of things has been a little forced, and it is sad that it has had to be forced in this way. But we are where we are.

    Labour Members are resolutely in favour of a Hillsborough-style public inquiry, as we made clear in our manifesto a couple of months ago—my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North and I pushed for that to be included. The Labour party believes that that style of inquiry would get to the heart of the problems that unfolded in the 1980s and hold to account those who were to blame for this scandal, before it is too late. It is not just our party, but all the parties—especially those on the Opposition Benches—that have made a commitment to stand up for those people seeking justice. That was so clearly documented in the joint letter, which was published on Sunday, from the leaders of every single opposition party here in this House, including, I am pleased to say, of the Democratic Unionist party.

    Last November, in a debate secured by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North, we discussed a whole host of issues that this community faces, including how people could be compensated for the terrible events that have occurred. Today, we are here to debate the fight for justice, which should have happened a lot sooner.

    In my contribution, I want to impress on the Minister two key points: first, that the previous two inquiries have, categorically, not been sufficient in seeking justice, which is why a Hillsborough-style inquiry must be actioned; and, secondly, that the evidence presented so far is clear that if we are to have truth and reconciliation after the murky covering up of this scandal, then the strongest of daylight must be shone on every aspect, leaving no stone unturned.

    The two previous inquiries—the Archer inquiry in 2009 and the Penrose inquiry in Scotland in 2015—did not go far enough in the eyes of the affected community in getting the truth and justice that they deserve. The Archer inquiry, which was not Government-backed, failed because there were no Department of Health witnesses giving evidence to the convened panel. The Penrose inquiry also did not go far enough in seeking the truth, as it was unable to compel witnesses from outside Scotland when, at the time of the scandal, most, if not all, of the decisions were made in Whitehall. That failure to compel witnesses to attend from outside Scotland meant that the inquiry failed to provide the justice and answers that people from right across the UK deserved.

    There are many allegations around this scandal, ranging from Department of Health officials destroying evidence as part of the cover-up, to victims’ medical details being tampered with to hide the cause of their infections.

  • Two of my constituents have two particular matters that they want the inquiry to consider: first, one said that he was infected with hepatitis C and exposed to the HIV virus, but was not informed of that by the NHS until years afterwards and he wants to be assured that the inquiry will reveal why the truth was hidden; the second wants to know about doctors and scientists being paid by the drug companies and about the precise nature of those deals. He thinks that those deals have to be really properly and rigorously exposed by this inquiry, so that we can get to the bottom of whatever vested interests existed during this scandal.

  • I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. The evidence on those things has been well documented, especially by the former Member for Leigh and my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North. Those who have lived with these conditions, who are brave enough to come forward—and who are at the sharp end of this heinous negligence and the recent uncovering reported in the Daily Mail last week—have proved just how important it is that a Hillsborough-style inquiry is set up.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that the report, “Self Sufficiency in Blood Products in England and Wales” is unauthorised, and could be perpetuating inaccuracies and outright lies, as my constituent says in a letter to me?

  • All of this evidence will have to be examined. In recent days, constituents affected by this scandal have been in contact with my office with intricate details that must be addressed. It is important that those questions, no matter how small they may be, are answered, as they reflect the issues that have inextricably affected that person’s whole life. It is most important that those issues are addressed, so that those who have lived with the ramifications of this serious negligence can finally have the justice that they deserve.

    Getting to the bottom of the allegations and the evidence and having a full and frank inquiry that brings justice for the many people affected are the reasons why we must have this inquiry. As the joint letter by the Opposition leaders said, if a panel were to be convened, it must disclose any and all documents related to the scandal, which involves the victims at every stage; and it must compel all parties involved to participate in the disclosure process and not to hinder justice any further. It must also investigate the events leading up to an individual’s infection and the aftermath, including allegations of medical details being tampered with, whether people were unknowingly tested for viruses without their knowledge and whether enough was done to identify those at risk of infection. As part of this inquiry, there must also be an investigation into the role of profit-making American firms, which supplied the blood factor concentrates to people with haemophilia.

    Although none of this will bring back loved ones and those who have died as a consequence of this scandal, or change the life circumstances of those who are alive today living with these conditions inflicted on them, there is still something that we can do, which is to hold an inquiry. It is the very least that we can do. The thousands of people affected by this scandal must be supported and we must stand beside them in seeking justice, as that is our duty as elected representatives of the public.

    I want to conclude with this final remark: none of us here has a magic wand—I know that our constituents think that we do—and we cannot turn back time and stop this scandal happening. Sadly, that power does not exist, but the power that does exist, at the behest of the Minister before us today, is that of facilitating the justice for those who live with the aftermath of this scandal. Here, today, we can send a message—a loud and strong message to those who campaign on this issue day in, day out—that Parliament has listened and is on their side. We in this House have heard them; we in this House are there with them; and we in this House will do all that we can for them in their quest for justice. We cannot let them down. We can help facilitate the truth once and for all. Parliament is listening to the individuals who have spent decades fighting against the system to get the truth that they seek, and the Government must listen to Parliament. Parliament is saying: fix this, provide those thousands of people who never asked for this to happen to them with the justice that they so rightly deserve. We cannot fail them any longer.

  • I thank you, Mr Speaker, for explaining to the House the sequence in which we are speaking today in this very important debate.

    I wish to start by offering my personal apology to all those who have been affected by the tragedy of infected NHS-supplied blood or blood products. This has had a terrible impact on so many individuals and families. I know that, quite rightly, there have been many debates on the subject in this Chamber, which have been prompted by the quite proper concern of Members on both sides of this House over many years.

    There have been two previous inquiries on this issue: the privately funded Archer report, which was published in 2009, and the Scottish Government-funded Penrose inquiry report, which was published in 2015. However, I am aware that, over the years, there have been several calls for a full independent inquiry.

    In addition to those reports, the Department of Health has worked to bring greater transparency to the events. Many documents relating to blood safety, covering the period from 1970 to 1995, have been published and are available on The National Archives website. Those documents provide a comprehensive picture of events and decisions, many of which were included in the documents reviewed by the Penrose inquiry. However, I recognise that, for those affected, these steps do not go far enough to provide the answers that they want or to get to the truth of what happened.

    In the light of those concerns and of reports of new evidence and of allegations of potential criminality, we think that it is important to understand the extent of what is claimed and the wider issues that arise. I am pleased to be able to confirm to the House that the Government intend to call an inquiry into the events that led to so many people being infected with HIV and/or hepatitis C through NHS-supplied blood or blood products.

  • I am very pleased with the news that the Minister has just confirmed. Will he ensure that the process that is followed—I very much support a Hillsborough-style inquiry—facilitates the ability to bring criminal charges so that the full force of the law can be applied to anyone who may be guilty of criminal wrongdoing?

  • I shall come on directly to the form that the independent inquiry should take, and I hope that that will help to address the right hon. Gentleman’s question.

    We have heard calls for an inquiry based on the model that was used to investigate the Hillsborough tragedy—the so-called Hillsborough-style panel—which would allow for a sensitive investigation of the issues, allowing those affected and their families close personal engagement with an independent and trusted panel. There have also been suggestions that only a formal statutory inquiry led by a senior judge under the Inquiries Act 2005 will provide the answers that those affected want. Such an inquiry would have the power to compel witnesses and written evidence—an apparent shortcoming in previous reports. The Government can see that there are merits in both approaches, and to ensure that whatever is established is in the interests of those affected we will engage with the affected groups and interested parties, including the all-party parliamentary group, before taking a final decision on the type of inquiry.

  • Will the terms of the inquiry allow for recommendations to be made about the correct levels of compensation for those who have been affected?

  • I shall make a little progress, then endeavour to answer that.

    My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and Ministers at the Department of Health will meet those affected and their families so that we can discuss the issues and understand their preferences directly about the style, scope and duration of the inquiry.

  • I am grateful for what the Minister is saying, but can he give a time estimate of when the meetings will take place? My experience of the Department of Health is that, on this issue, deadlines are not met and things have to be dragged on to the Floor of the House to get Ministers to respond. Is there a set timetable for when a decision will be made and those meetings held?

  • The hon. Lady, who has taken an active lead in encouraging inquiries, will want to make sure that we get it right. We will take the time that is necessary to consult colleagues and interested groups. Our intention is to be able to come back to the House as soon as practicable—I anticipate in the autumn.

  • The Minister has mentioned the Department of Health, and he will know that my constituents live under a devolved Administration in Wales but were infected in a hospital in Liverpool. What consultation is he undertaking with the Welsh Assembly, including on the schemes that it is running, and on the liability ultimately for any objective?

  • We recognise that there is a legitimate interest for all constituent nations in the United Kingdom. As many of these incidents took place before devolution, we intend to consult devolved Governments.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that, quite rightly, the inquiry has to give answers to the victims of the scandal and their families? There will be great interest in the conclusions of the inquiry in the House and among the wider public to ensure that historical circumstances that led to the scandal are never repeated.

  • I completely agree with my hon. Friend.

  • I shall make a little progress on devolved matters before responding to other colleagues. Regardless of the style of the inquiry, our intention is that it should cover the whole of the UK, so we will be in direct contact with counterparts in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland to discuss that with them and to seek their views before determining those aspects of the inquiry.

  • First, I apologise to the House, the Minister and to you, Mr Speaker, for not being present at the beginning of this very, very important debate. The Minister said that he is going to consult on the inquiry, which will be UK-wide. He will know that we do not have an Assembly, and there is no corresponding Health Minister in Northern Ireland, which is absolutely disgraceful. There is no prospect of our having such a Minister before the autumn, so with whom will the Minister liaise in Northern Ireland in the Assembly’s absence?

  • We will ask the Northern Ireland Office to facilitate discussions with officials and representatives in Northern Ireland.

  • On the point about devolution made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (David Hanson), is the Minister telling the House that this is a UK-wide inquiry and that the consultation will take place across the UK, so that there will be equality for people such as Mr and Mrs Hutchinson in my constituency in the outcome of the inquiry?

  • The scope of the inquiry will be determined as part of the discussions which, as I have said, will take place over coming weeks and short number of months. Our intention is that the devolved Administrations and their residents will have full access to participation in the inquiry, irrespective of where people live or were infected.

    The Government intend to update the House once the discussions are complete, and I encourage colleagues with a specific interest to engage in discussions through the all-party group or other relevant groups. In the meantime, if anyone in the House or outside has any evidence of criminality, they should take that evidence to the police as soon as possible. If anyone has any other evidence that they want the inquiry to consider, I would request that they submit it to the inquiry once it has been established. The Government will write to everyone in receipt of payments from the current schemes to make sure that they all know about today’s announcement and to inform them of next steps.

  • I very much welcome the Minister’s comments. Will he confirm that when the scope of the inquiry is drawn up care will be taken not to do anything that might endanger future trials? Will he further emphasise that anyone with information should make sure that it is made available to the police?

  • My hon. Friend will recollect that the recent Hillsborough inquiry gave rise to certain information that was made available to the police and led to charges being made. We would envisage that the inquiry that is established would have the ability to do the same thing if appropriate.

  • I must make progress, because Mr Speaker has encouraged me to take 10 minutes so that everyone can make a contribution, and I have already exceeded that.

    I should like to take the opportunity to inform the House that implementing the reforms to the infected blood ex-gratia support scheme remains a priority for the Government. That is why, as David Cameron established a year or so ago, within this spending review period, until 2020-21, up to £125 million of additional funding has been added to the budget for the ex-gratia support scheme. That more than doubles the annual spend over the spending review period. The second consultation on scheme reform, which closed on 17 April this year, received over 250 responses. The consultation contained proposals for a special category mechanism that would allow people with stage 1 hepatitis C to apply for the higher annual payment, greatly increasing the number of individuals eligible for the higher payment. The responses are being looked at and the consultation response will be published in due course. All the annual payments will remain linked to the consumer prices index and will be disregarded for tax and benefit purposes.

  • I thank the Minister for what he said about input into the inquiry. As the new chair of the all-party group on HIV and AIDS, I am sure that our members will want to contribute. I want to press him on the financial liabilities arising from the inquiry and the impact of devolution. Will he guarantee that, no matter where anyone was infected or where they live now, they will be treated with equality across the United Kingdom when it comes to financial liabilities and payments arising from the inquiry?

  • I have just described the additional contribution to the financial scheme for England. It will be for the inquiry to decide whether it wants to make recommendations about financial arrangements. At present, I am not in a position to give the hon. Gentleman the confirmation that he is seeking. That will have to come through the inquiry.

  • My constituent Lesley Hughes was infected with hepatitis C in 1970, but this was discovered only about three years ago. Will any consideration be given to those long years of suffering when the compensation scheme is put into effect?

  • I offer my sympathy to my right hon. Friend’s constituent for the challenges she finds herself facing. We have to say at this point that it will be down to individuals to make their applications. We will respond to the consultation in due course. I strongly encourage my right hon. Friend to make representations on his constituent’s behalf to the inquiry when it is established.

  • I thank the Minister for being extremely generous in giving way. May I press him on the issue of health records? Many families are still trying to establish what has actually happened, while the Minister is discussing the scope of the inquiry. Should we write to the Minister if there are any issues with families obtaining health records?

  • I think it would be appropriate to write to the inquiry, once it is established. I completely concur with an earlier point about ensuring that any evidence of medical records being tampered with should be made available to the inquiry.

    I am afraid that I must bring my remarks to a conclusion. I thank those on both sides of the House who have worked tirelessly on the issue over the years. I add my voice to those of others who have already spoken to commend the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson). She has spoken very powerfully in the House on this subject not only today, but on many occasions and for many years. I also commend my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), who co-chairs the all-party parliamentary group. As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North did, I thank past and present members of that group, notably the former chair, Jason McCartney, late of this parish. Finally, I thank ministerial colleagues who have handled this delicate issue in previous Administrations, particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), who has worked so hard not just for his constituents, but for all those affected by the tragedy.

  • I appeal to the Scottish National party spokesperson certainly not to exceed 10 minutes, and preferably less. The Minister took a little longer, but he did take several interventions and was setting out the Government’s position, but there is no requirement or need for the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) to take quite as long.

  • As the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) said, 2,400 people have died following the worst disaster in NHS history. That was due to a shortage of blood and clotting factors, which led to the NHS sourcing products from America. The problem is that the factor IX concentrates for men with haemophilia or women with Von Willebrand disease are made from thousands of samples. The moment one or two people within that collection are affected is the start of the virus, and that was why these patients were affected at a much higher rate than those who had a single blood transfusion. The problem is that the issue goes back decades and it has not been properly dealt with, as has been said already.

    There have been multiple debates, statements and urgent questions on the issue during the two years in which I have been in the House—I, too, pay tribute to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North for keeping at it with the all-party parliamentary group—but most of them have been about support. It was only last July that the Government finally came forward with a strengthened support package for these people. It is important to recognise that the payments are not compensation; they are ex gratia support payments, and they do not recognise the loss and suffering of the victims of contaminated blood. This seemed to come about only after the Scottish Government came up with a much more generous package in the form of a much larger lump sum, ongoing payments and, in particular, a 75% pension to the spouse and bereaved families. Such people still do not get sufficient support here in England, but it is not right that someone who has lost a partner to this scandal is not compensated.

    We heard in March this year—a mere seven months after the announcement of a support package—that the Government were consulting on perhaps restricting who would qualify for the highest payments, and that the payments would not be index-linked. The youngest remaining victim is approximately 35. They have a whole lifetime to go through. That might be a shortened lifetime in comparison with ours, but we cannot suddenly leave people in poverty further down the line. These things need to be dealt with. I welcome the Minister’s commitment that the payments will be linked to the consumer prices index. We may need a debate on support, but that is not what this debate is about.

  • I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Lady’s remarks, but may I point out that the support also extends to Wales, not just to England? As far as I understand it, there is also a £10,000 payment for spouses in Wales. Is it the hon. Lady’s understanding that the inquiry’s terms of reference will include the actions of the Governments in Wales, Scotland and possibly Northern Ireland, as well as what has happened in England? I had intended to ask the Minister that question, but could not make an intervention.

  • The Scottish Government set up the Penrose inquiry, but I would assume that any inquiry will look at the whole UK, and the Minister has committed to that. It must be remembered that the decisions that led to the scandal were taken here and in Whitehall. This was before devolution. Governments such as the Scottish Government have tried to step up to support citizens who have been affected, but getting the answers to what caused the situation is a matter for this place.

  • Does the hon. Lady agree that the lack of trust has been enhanced by documents such as “Self-Sufficiency in Blood Products in England and Wales”? That was a Department of Health document, but many people felt it was inaccurate and contained outright lies?

  • The inquiry will have to look at all those things. Documents, patients’ records, things that were altered and hidden, and things that are hiding behind public interest barriers now all need to be opened up so that light can be shed on the matter, as with Hillsborough.

    Penrose was a Scotland-only inquiry. The Department of Health was invited to take part and turn it into a UK-wide inquiry, but it declined. One of the key weaknesses of the inquiry was that Penrose did not have the right to summon documents or people.

    I remember when the scandal started to unfold in the ’80s. As a surgeon who was, of course, using blood on her patients, I remember how shocked I was at the mere thought that an action I might have taken could have harmed a patient I was looking after. In my elective surgery, I set about chasing every single blood cell to avoid spilling blood. I used electrocautery and all sorts of modern techniques. If I were to wheel out the staff from my theatre now, they would moan about how long I used to spend doing that. If a clinician is dealing with someone who has been hit by a bus, however, they have no choice.

    I remember a critic of Penrose in 2015 saying that they were surprised that clinicians showed so much trust in the quality of blood, but a clinician who is using hundreds of drugs, implants, machines and blood products must be able to trust them. We have no mechanism personally to check them. That is the role of the Government and all their agencies. It is why we have licensing and inspections, and it is why action must be taken when there is a suspicion of harm. Failing to act, hiding and not dealing with the situation at the time all happened pre-devolution, and this inquiry must take account of that.

    At a conference in Glasgow in 1980, clinicians were already raising concerns about changes in the liver function of patients who were receiving blood concentrate for haemophilia. A 1981 meeting of the UK’s Blood Transfusion Research Committee, which we have all read about recently, recognised that about 50 patients a year developed some form of liver damage. Yet the decision at that meeting appeared to be to let that continue and simply to study the situation, using those patients as a way of developing a test for what was known at the time as non-A, non-B hepatitis. It is important that we ensure that this inquiry looks at all this. The official from the Department of Health and Social Security who was at that meeting would not attend Penrose. Such people need to be called by this inquiry.

    Going forward, the inquiry must include the families and the victims so that we are sensitive to what they want to know. This is also about not just the Government but producers—and not just producers in America. We try to make ourselves feel better by blaming this on the States, where people bought blood, and where people with addictions, people living in poverty and prisoners were used. In the mid-70s, prisoners in this country were also used, and it is claimed that that was encouraged by the Home Office as part of prisoner rehabilitation. We need the documents on that; we need to understand if that decision was made. UK producers have often been found wanting in the quality of product they came up with, so we must not pat ourselves on the back and imagine that the UK product was somehow safe and that this was all due to the US. We need to follow this right down and get the answers.

    These people have been failed so many times, over and over, and it is crucial that that does not happen again. We need to keep the Government on their toes. We need to have reports back from this inquiry as it is set up, so that we know what it is actually going to look into. If we fail to get answers this time, and particularly if we fail to deliver compensation for the lives lost, the suffering, the failure to get a mortgage or insurance, and the costs of care, we will have failed these people all over again.

  • I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) on securing this important debate. I was in the Chamber when the former Member for Leigh raised these very concerning issues, which need to be looked at in the inquiry. That struck a chord with me, so I am delighted to be back in the Chamber to see this debate.

    Like many Members on both sides of the House, I have been contacted by constituents who have told me about their experiences and about how contaminated blood has affected them, their family life and their friends. Every so often as a constituency MP, we meet the saddest constituents who tell us the most heartbreaking stories. We sit there week in, week out, and those stories resonate with us, but they are not stories for the victims—they are daily life. These are wrecked lives, but the people have done nothing wrong of their own accord—it is pure injustice.

    It is clear that the contaminated blood products that were used decades ago have continued daily to affect people’s lives in a devastating and destructive way. When I have heard the stories of how people have been affected, they have lived with me, and I can understand the campaigning that has been done by Members on both sides of the House. I am therefore delighted to talk about my constituents’ experiences.

    Today, we finally recognise what has happened, and the Government are ready to tackle this injustice. I am delighted that that is being done in the name of the victims and their families, who did nothing to bring this on themselves.

    After I became the MP for Eastleigh in May 2015, I met one of my constituents from Bishopstoke, Gary Webster, who has been left coping with HIV, hepatitis C and possibly variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease as a result of the NHS blood products that were used during a routine procedure in the 1980s to treat his haemophilia.

  • It will be important that the inquiry goes far enough back. The decision to heat-treat albumin for hepatitis B was made in the mid-60s, but we did not treat concentrates. We need to make sure that all these conditions are included.

  • I thank the hon. Lady for that input. It is absolutely right that she, like all our constituents, brings her experience to this. We need to make sure that we do go back far enough.

    Last year, Gary attended a debate we had here once again to discuss this heartbreaking issue. He attended a specialist school in Alton, where he was one of many haemophiliacs. He told me that he kept in contact with around 100 other students, all of whom had been affected by contaminated blood, although only around 20 were still alive. These students all contracted illnesses through blood products they had received because of their haemophilia. Tragically, Gary’s story is similar to that of thousands of others across the country.

    Other constituents, some of whom wish not to be named, have had grave financial burdens placed on them and their families as a result of the diseases they contracted from contaminated blood, which have affected their lives. It is only right that we support those whose lives have been significantly affected by these contaminated products. I am therefore pleased to hear about the additional support that the Government will provide to those who have been roundly affected. I am particularly pleased that the annual payments for those with hepatitis stage 2 will increase to £15,500, and then to £18,500 in 2018-19. Payments to those co-infected with HIV and hepatitis stage 2 will also go up, to £36,500 by 2018-19. I am pleased to see that these payments will be linked to CPI.

    That will help to support all our constituents we know have been affected. I know from speaking to Gary and others about the real hardship and challenges these conditions have brought to their lives, and about the difficulty they face in working, and in bringing up and supporting their families in the way they would have liked had they not been affected.

    Almost £400 million has been paid out to those affected by five different organisations, which have been funded by the Department of Health. I am delighted to hear about the £125 million the Government have committed as additional funding for the reformed scheme, which will double the Department’s annual spend on the scheme over the next five years. That money must go to the people who really need it—that should absolutely be noted—because the daily-life decisions they have made have been really difficult because of their financial impact.

  • The hon. Lady talks about a reformed scheme, and some people have fallen outside the existing scheme. My constituent Sharon Moore, who suffered a transfusion of contaminated blood, has been told that she is outside the criteria. Would the hon. Lady urge the Government to look at cases again under the new scheme to make sure that people are not missed and not excluded unnecessarily?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing that point forward. There is nothing more frustrating for an MP than hearing that people have just fallen outside the bracket. That is the worst place to be, and the scope of the inquiry will perhaps give us the chance to look at that.

    This Government have done significantly more than other Governments to protect those who have been affected. There is a commitment to ensure that we pull the five fairly complex schemes together and transfer them into a new scheme in 2017. These people have complicated and difficult lives anyway, and it is only right that we make it easier for victims to get the support they need.

    I am so pleased that the Prime Minister made her announcement this morning and that there will be a full and wide-ranging inquiry into the tragedy. I am pleased that the inquiry will be drawn together by the victims, to support and suit the victims. I am pleased that they will finally have a voice—the strongest voice possible—so that they can get the most and the fullest answers they can, which is what they deserve. It is only right that this consultation will be held with those affected by this terrible injustice, so that their families also have a voice.

    I hope that the inquiry will provide answers for those who are looking for them. In particular, there are concerns about criminality—when I heard that issue raised in this House, it was extremely concerning. We now have a vehicle to get people’s voices heard, and if there is anything that should be going through the courts, we can do something about that.

    With this inquiry, we have an opportunity to make sure that no voice is lost, and that the victims and their families get the right inquiry, the fullest compensation and the answers they rightly deserve.

  • Order. May I just advise the House that with the exception of the maiden speaker whom I am about to call, colleagues should be thinking in terms of speeches of five minutes each, or at most six, if the Chair is to accommodate everybody? I am sure there are colleagues who would like to expatiate eloquently and at length, and on other occasions they might be free to do so, but that will have to wait, I say to the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), for the long winter evenings that lie ahead. Before that, I hope that we can give a warm, enthusiastic and encouraging welcome to our maiden speaker, Anneliese Dodds.

  • Thank you very much indeed, Mr Speaker. I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for securing this debate.

    As the new MP for Oxford East, I must say that it is a shame to me that it was the Oxford haemophilia centre that produced blood products which resulted in many people contracting blood-borne diseases, and further, that guidance from the centre in the early 1980s advocated the use of humans to test infectivity. I will repeat that—the use of humans to test infectivity. However, I am very proud of the people from Oxford who have campaigned for so many years for justice, along with many others mentioned by my hon. Friends. Their fight, as we have heard, has been simply for truth and for accountability so that events like these can never happen again. As I start my maiden speech, I would like to dedicate my words to them and to all the other people in Oxford who fought for justice against all the odds—not least, also, the survivors of the Bullfinch sexual abuse scandal, whose bravery has been remarkable and an inspiration.

    I am enormously grateful to the people of Oxford East for electing me as their representative. As such, I of course take over from Andrew Smith, who served us for three decades as our MP and who many people in all parts of this House knew very well. Like many people, Andrew came initially to Oxford unsure of whether it would become his home, but quickly recognised the potential of our great city, not least because as a student he met, very quickly, his wonderful wife Val, who was also known by many people in this House. Val was an incredibly powerful advocate for the community of Blackbird Leys, which she served as a county and city councillor for many years. Her wisdom and her kindness is still very sadly missed by many of us.

    Andrew is undoubtedly best known in Oxford East as a diligent constituency MP who cares passionately about our city and all its people, including of course those living in his home community of Blackbird Leys. But Andrew also had a very distinguished career in Parliament, including serving in the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1999 to 2002, and then as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from 2002 to 2004. Andrew’s work, with others, lifted more than a million pensioners and half a million children out of poverty, helped restore the national finances—a piece of history often ignored or, sadly, distorted in this House—and brought in some of the biggest increases in health and overseas aid spending our country has ever seen. Andrew also presided over groundbreaking disability rights legislation, set up the pension protection fund, and helped bring in the pension credit, among many, many more transformative initiatives.

    Andrew is none the less an incredibly humble man. He always stressed how his achievements came about through working with others, either in this House or in Oxford. In fact, Andrew is so humble that when he was in the Cabinet running Britain’s welfare state, his own television was so dilapidated that it had to be whacked many times before it would actually work. He is very intelligent but also very straightforward, without any airs or graces, and is immensely respected for it. I am sure that Members in all parts of this House will wish him very well for a long and very happy retirement.

    Oxford East could be imagined as a constituency filled only with gleaming spires, detectives driving Aston Martins, and mysterious university dons. But while Oxford East boasts two excellent universities and bustles with students during term time, Oxford also has an impressive industrial heritage, and enormous further industrial potential, with the right infrastructure investment and support. What was the Pressed Steel Company plant, now BMW Cowley, produces nearly a quarter of a million Mini cars every year. Its engineers, technicians and apprentices are among the best in the world. Oxford as a city voted to remain in the EU, although some areas in the city had a majority to leave. Whether people voted to leave or to remain, no one voted to deny our city its potential. It is essential that European markets remain open to businesses like BMW Cowley, and that we retain Oxford’s many and various links with European and global science, as well as protecting the EU citizens who have made their home in our city.

    In fact, Oxford is a city that has always looked outwards, as the first ever Oxfam shop on Broad Street reminds us. People with roots from all over the world call Oxford East their home. I am very proud that in my constituency we have five mosques, many different Christian churches, and substantial Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish populations. But I feel that the potential of many people from all of our communities in Oxford East is currently being held back.

    Yesterday I attended the funeral of Bill Buckingham, who had been a Labour councillor and campaigner in Oxford East for 70 years; he died at the age of 96. Bill was among many who came back after serving our country in the second world war, determined that Lloyd George’s promise after the first world war now had to be turned into a socially inclusive reality, with homes built for heroes as part of mixed communities to be proud of. As Bevan put it at the time, we needed high-quality housing where the doctor, the grocer, the butcher and the farm labourer could all be neighbours, without social distinction.

    What of that ambitious vision survives now? House prices and rents in Oxford are the least affordable in Britain outside London. Renters of homes have fewer rights than if they were renting a sofa or a fridge. The rules for housing benefit have been changed so people whose families have lived in Oxford for generations are being forced out of their city for the crime of merely earning an average, not above-average, wage; and, to pay for the right to buy in housing association properties, up to a third of Oxford’s remaining council stock could vanish.

    For me, people doing their best to bring up their children on low incomes in Oxford are today’s heroes and heroines. Often running between more than one job to make ends meet, I must say that it comes as a slap in the face to them when they hear politicians refusing to admit that there is such a thing as in-work poverty. I was disturbed to hear that repeatedly in this House last week. Britain, and especially Oxford, urgently needs more genuinely affordable homes, with affordability not covering homes worth £400,000, as is currently the case. Renters need stronger rights, and they need, above all, a system that recognises houses as homes—as places to live and not merely investment opportunities. We also, of course, need to unlock the potential of our communities and not allow them to be asset-stripped.

    I live on the Rose Hill estate in Oxford with my family—I am very pleased that some of them are here today. It is a wonderful, friendly place, albeit one where almost half the children on the estate grow up in poverty. Bill Buckingham, along with many other local people, kept Rose Hill’s community centre going through thick and thin, even when it burned down, and now we have a new centre on my estate, but other community facilities have been run down in recent years. I loved meeting other parents during baby sessions at the children’s centre when I had my first child four years ago. As you can see, he is quite grown-up now, albeit a little bit tired. But by the time my daughter arrived 18 months ago, there were no more baby sessions available. Instead, the children’s centre is only available for supervised contact sessions and for two—that is two—hours a week of supervised play. Community spaces such as children’s centres may not grab the headlines, but for many people they mean the difference between loneliness and friendship, between ill-health and wellbeing, and between division and neighbourliness.

    Oxford East and its incredible people have so much potential, but too often, I feel, they are being held back. As their MP, I am ambitious for our city and its people, and I will devote the time they have given me in this place to ensure a better, brighter and fairer future for them, and for people like them, across this country.

  • I, too, start by paying tribute to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) for her leadership and persistence on this issue, on which she and my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) have done tireless work. I welcome the Minister’s statement that a public inquiry will happen on this most important of issues. The Prime Minister has clearly listened to views across the House on the matter.

    At one of my first surgery appointments, Richard and his wife came to see me to tell me his story. Richard was a haemophiliac who was sent to a school for the physically disabled in Hampshire when he was 11. For six years, he was given hundreds of thousands of units of factor VIII. Prior to that he had been given cryoprecipitate, which was perfectly workable in moderating his condition. The factor VIII prophylactic treatment was meant to prevent the dangers caused by haemophilia. It changed Richard’s life. Sadly, 64 of the 75 people from Richard’s school are no longer with us. Many of those young people died in their early teens.

    This case is a double tragedy. Richard and his wife told me the very good news that, in later life, they decided to have children, but due to the risk of his hepatitis affecting the unborn baby, they had to have a termination, so they are childless as well as having been affected by terrible diseases throughout their lives.

    I neglected to congratulate the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) on her very fine maiden speech. She certainly made a far better job of it than I did of mine when I stood here two years ago. Her tremendous words were highly relevant to the topic under discussion. I am sure she will make many further fine contributions in the years ahead.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that the inquiry needs to consider the challenges faced by people affected by contaminated blood who want children? A constituent of mine had one round of IVF treatment covered by the NHS, but he was not entitled to a second round, so he had to pay for it himself. We should consider such issues and their effect on people in the round.

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. These terrible diseases have so many tragic implications. Through no fault of their own, people did not know that the treatments would have an adverse impact on their health.

    Helen was infected in the 1980s, but it was only when she moved to my constituency in 2006 and registered with a new GP that she was diagnosed with hepatitis and its associated difficulties. She has had many conseq